For the eighth time in 11 years of competitions, a team from Lincoln’s Lux Middle School has won the Nebraska Science Bowl and will be headed to the national competition in Washington, D.C., in April.
For the record, that means Lux teams have won 72.7 percent of the middle school competitions held in the state. The high school bowl will be held today at Wayne State College. The National Science Bowl brings together thousands of students from across the country. The finals are managed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
Rich Powers, Lux’s science bowl coach and an eighth-grade math teacher, said the team was among 33 that competed last weekend.
When asked the secret to his teams’ success, Powers said it largely comes down to hard work. “This particular team works particularly hard,” he said.
To prepare, students study scientific concepts, some of them at the high school level. “They’re studying stuff that’s way above them, and by the time they get to high school it’s not any trouble for them.”
Powers also has some other methods for selecting team members. One involves going head-to-head with buzzers in a sort of mini-tournament. As for the others, he joked, “that’s a trade secret.”
His past teams have included a student who went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a high school junior and another, now a senior on the Lincoln East team, who is deciding among Harvard, MIT and Stanford. That student, Akshay Rajagopal, won the National Geographic Bee in 2008. He comes to the Lux team’s practices to serve as the opposing team.
Whatever the methods, they appear to be working. Of the teams Powers has taken to nationals so far, all have placed in the top 16. And the competition is tough, he said, often made up of students whose parents work in places such as Silicon Valley or Los Alamos National Laboratory.
He said he expects his current team to do well, too.
“They’re not done yet,” he said. “They’re really going to crack down now.”
This year’s team has a strong captain. Jesse Lin won the Science Smart Award at the contest, given to the student who correctly answers the most toss-up questions during the morning round. Other team members are Luke Bigelow, Annie Jia, Dallas Lim and Suzie Cho, the only seventh-grader. The other four are eighth-graders.