BY REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — After a tough competition that included hands-on challenges and fast-paced mental tests, student teams from Niskayuna and Bethlehem emerged victorious from the regional round of the National Science Bowl competition, held at GE Research and Development over the weekend.
Teams from Van Antwerp Middle School and Bethlehem High School will advance to the final round of the 25th annual iteration of the contest, to be held in Washington, D.C., in April. The science bowl is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s science branch.
On Saturday, March 7, at General Electric’s Niskayuna campus, the teams’ first challenge involved building a car that could be powered only by dropping a 2-kilogram weight. Students collaborated to design the car and had to decide how to deliver the launching blow, trying everything from pulleys to swinging hammers.
In the afternoon, the student teams faced judges in a game show-style contest that ultimately decided who would win. Teams raced to buzz in with the correct answer after each of a series of tough science-based questions, which they had spent the previous weeks studying for.
“It was a really close match. The lead changed between us a number of times,” Van Antwerp coach Karen Postlethwait said of the competition.
“The kids were really, really excited,” she added.
Out of twelve total teams, Iroquois Middle School in Niskayuna and Niskayuna High School each finished fourth* in their respective categories, the school district said in a news release.
The winners were awarded all-expenses-paid trips to the finals, where they will sightsee at the Capitol and compete for $1,000 grants for their school science departments, or larger prizes that have not yet been announced. First-prize winners from past years have earned science trips all around the United States, including Alaska and several national parks.
“They definitely are very gung-ho. They’re willing to put the time in. They study very hard,” Postlethwait said. “And now it’s even more exciting: they get this all-expenses-paid trip to the science bowl.”
*CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Iroquois and Niskayuna High School teams had each come in second.
This story originally appeared in The Daily Gazette.