BANGOR, Maine — Bangor High School’s sports teams may get most of the attention for their performances against rivals, but the school’s Science Bowl squad is garnering some glory of its own.
After repeating as champions of the Maine regional bowl in February, beating out 22 teams representing 13 other schools, the squad is preparing to represent the state in the 2016 National Science Bowl. Over the past two seasons, Bangor has a 16-0 record in Maine.
“You’re looking at a wrecking crew,” Cary James, the team’s coach and head of Bangor High School’s science, technology and engineering department, said during a recent school committee meeting where the team was recognized for its achievements.
The team includes seniors Tyler DeFroscia, Isaac Robinson, Paige Brown and Conor Thompson and sophomore David Rubin. They’ll travel to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national competition from April 28 to May 2, with all expenses being covered by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Thompson, the team’s captain, Robinson and DeFroscia were on the team that went to nationals last year as well.
The group meets twice each week after school for practice, answering rapid-fire trivia questions and quickly solving equations. These sessions are usually fueled by Oreos. Team members pound down at least one package of the cookies between them each practice. They tried counting the number of Oreos consumed this year, but stopped after reaching a thousand, according to James.
The National Science Bowl pits teams from schools across the nation against one another, answering science-related trivia questions and solving complex math problems under the pressure of beating the other teams to the buzzer or facing strict time limits.
The topics range from astronomy and physics to earth science and chemistry. Each Bangor team member chose a specialty to focus on throughout the year, since it would be impossible to become an expert in so many subject areas.
“Any one of us might not be able to win the Maine Science Bowl alone, but all together, we’re very, very good,” Thompson said.
James has served as the longtime coach of Bangor’s Science Bowl squad. He’s been a part of Science Bowls for the past 25 years, and says he’s never seen a team dominate the competition like this group.
“I think our average margin of victory was 50 points,” Thompson said. That’s a blowout, considering the average team scores around 100 points to end a match. In the semifinal of this year’s Maine contest, Bangor blew out its opponent 144-68, Thompson said.
But it’s a different story when you get to nationals, team members said during a recent practice session. Last year, Bangor faced a team from California in an early practice round and didn’t fare well. They lost 140-18. But the three members of the team who were victims of that trouncing learned from it, they said.
Nationals questions are more difficult. The teams are faster and members often answer before the reader finishes voicing a question. Since last year, the Bangor squad has been working on its speed in hopes of doing a better job keeping up.
“I don’t think we’d lose by 150 points to Mira Loma [last year’s national champion from California], but we’d probably lose to Mira Loma,” Thompson said.
Outside of team competition, members of the squad have garnered some impressive individual accolades.
Paige Brown made a lot of news last month, winning a $150,000 top prize at the Intel Science Talent Search, the nation’s most prestigious pre-college science and math competition, for her work regarding water quality in Bangor’s impaired streams.
Thompson is a Maine math meet champion, and represented the state at the Annual American Regions Mathematics League Competition. He also won a second-place award in the physics, astronomy and math category at this year’s Maine State Science Fair.
The Foreign Language Association of Maine chose DeFroscia to receive its Student Recognition Award for 2016 for his accomplishments in both French and Chinese, along with his involvement in and service to his school and community.
“The rest of the state of Maine will probably be glad to see all these folks move on so they have an opportunity to win a match,” James said.
Here’s a few samples of the types of questions students could face, pulled from practice questions on the Science Bowl’s website:
— When sampling for organic matter in seawater, any organic matter retained by a 0.2 micrometer pore filter is classified as: W) dissolved organic carbon; X) particulate organic carbon; Y) detrital organic carbon; Z) live or dead marine algae. ANSWER: X
— Convert the angle, 18º18’36” (read as: 18 degrees, 18 minutes, 36 seconds) to degrees, to the second decimal place: ANSWER: 18.31
— If the intensity of a sound is 10,000 times as loud as another sound, by how many decibels do the two sounds differ? ANSWER: 40
— How many sigma and pi bonds, respectively, are there in a molecule with the following formula: [read slowly] CH3CHCHCH2CH3? ANSWER: SIGMA 14; PI = 1
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.