By Kristin Schultz
NISKAYUNA — Keeping its streak alive, the Van Antwerp Middle School Science Bowl team is headed to the national competition for the 11th time in 13 years.
The team of five students beat out the Iroquois Middle School team in the regional competition on March 7.
“There was more pressure than usual because we were up against another Niskayuna school,” said Van Antwerp team member Kevin Kwon. “We were happy that either way a Niskayuna team would go to nationals but we wanted it to be us.”
To get there, the team competed in a practical falling mass challenge in which they designed a car and used a ramp to race it against other teams. Then they competed in a fast-paced “quiz show” format round in which a panel of judges read questions relating to different areas of scientific study, including life sciences, earth and space, math, physical science, energy and general science.
The national competition will be held in Washington D.C. from April 27 to May 1. In preparation, the team has divided up the areas of study so that members are experts in their specific areas. They’ll spend the time before the competition studying and practicing their buzzer skills, as the format will again be a question-and-answer competition.
Van Antwerp will be one of 50 middle school teams, but they are not the only one from New York. Many states send multiple teams while others do not participate. The Science Bowl is presented in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy.
The students are excited about the competition visiting the nation’s capital.
“I’m looking forward to meeting other kids and the friendly competition,” said Josh Wang, an eighth-grader whose family moved to Niskayuna from Lincoln, Nebraska, this school year.
The group will also go on a monument tour and visit the National Mall.
In regard to the Science Bowl, they are nervous but hopeful. Seventh-grader Ryana Sarcar hopes to finish in the top 16 and Dennis Plotnikov hopes to advance past the first round.
Regardless of the results, most of the students plan to pursue a career in the STEM fields. Plotnikov hopes to be a particle physicist, Wang is aiming for a career in engineering, Suchi Mehta wants to be an astronaut, Kwon plans to forge a career in medicine and Sarcar is undecided.
Team members are all in eighth grade except Sarcar.
Their coach, Karen Postlethwait, is looking forward to the competition as well.
“It gets them excited about science,” she said. “They meet and compete with kids from around the country. They are pushed to learn at a higher level. They’ll come away with great memories and hopefully their love of science will grow even more.”