Whitworth hosts first annual regional Science Bowl

by Sandra Tully

With a refusal to let the snow obstruct their competition, a slightly younger crowd embarked onto the Whitworth campus Saturday Feb. 25 for the first annual regional Science Bowl to be held in Eastern Washington.

High school students from Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho came to play against one another for the title of regional champions. The campus hosted more than 54 teams of five students and their coaches who did their best to answer questions on the subjects in the areas of science and mathematics. Whitworth has now been added to the list of 70 locations across the country to hold this type of event.

The idea for a Science Bowl in Spokane was first pitched by Whitworth physics professor Dr. Markus Ong. Ong participated in his own Science Bowl competitions as a high schooler in Southern California. After joining the Whitworth faculty he said he was surprised to find out that there was nothing like that for kids in the area.

“I found out that for high school there was only one option for them in the entire state of Washington and that was to go to the Tri-Cities,” he said. “I thought it would be great if we could have something here.”

Ong said he believes that creating teams for Science Bowl competitions can be both positive and affirming for young students. It provides a community of peers that have a similar interest in scientific fields of study. He said he thinks young people who may be the best in their school can come to events like these and meet other students just like them.

“One of the things that happened to me when I started doing this sort of stuff in junior high was to say ‘oh I’m actually good at this’ and that’s not something that really clicks sometimes for young people,” Ong said. “Even inside their school for a student to say, ‘no one else in my school may get why I’m into this but my team gets it but my team of four does.’”

Whitworth collaborated with ESD 101, Gonzaga University, Mobius Science Center, and Prodigy Northwest to help organize the event. Deb Johnson, president of Prodigy Northwest, is excited to see the campus open its doors to allow the competition. She said she is happy with the layout of the campus and how well it has worked for the Science Bowl participants.

“So far it’s been great,” she said. “It’s a small enough campus where the buildings are close enough at ten minutes of passing time that from one round to the next it’s close enough, but it’s a big enough school that there are enough rooms available for us to use and have all these competition rooms.”

Johnson said she believes that a large part of the Science Bowl’s success was all the students, faculty, and staff members that volunteered their time to the event.

“We had over 100 volunteers sign up and get trained to be moderators, timekeepers, and scorekeepers,” she said. ”They’ve done a wonderful job. It’s gone really well considering the 42 million pieces that go into this.”

Coeur D’ Alene High School senior Kelsey Ingles enjoyed the experience of having the Science Bowl on a campus like Whitworth. She thought it gave a good insight into what the college experience might be like for her after she graduates.

“I’m a senior so next year I’m going to college so it’s nice to be on a college campus and get the feel,” Ingles said.

Whitworth will host the regional Science Bowl again for junior high students on March 2 and 3. The high school competition Saturday became one of the largest regional competitions in the nation with more than 500 people. The junior high competition is anticipated to be just as large.

Contact Sandra Tully at stully15@my.whitworth.edu.

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