High school science team challenges judges

CHEVY CHASE, Md. (AP) — The Los Angeles high school team that won a national science quiz for a second straight year on Monday knows enough to argue points of astronomy and biology with the judges.
Challenging the answers to questions in the 1997 Science Bowl didn’t always work for the Venice High School team, even when they were right.
But it showed how confident a group of 16- and 17-year-olds can be of information they’ve stored during years of academic contests and taking advance placement and college-level science. Consider, too, that theirs is a magnet school for students who excel in foreign languages.
Still, returning contestants Noah Bray-Ali, 16, and fellow senior David Dickinson, 17, said the contest, sponsored by the Department of Energy and getting business support as well, was much harder this year because the other teams seemed much stronger.
“This year the people were better and, frankly, it took a lot more effort on our part,” said Dickinson, the captain, who with Bray-Ali will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.
The toughest fight came from Wootton High School, a regular public school in Rockville, Md., which had won 12 straight rounds in national finals that started on Sunday. The team, from a Washington suburb, then dropped two straight to the more practiced Los Angeles team, 88-78, and 138-80.
The Blake School, a Minneapolis private school, finished third, trailed by Gateway Senior High in Monroeville, Pa.
If the final scores look like something from basketball, it’s because there’s some of the sport to the contest, which also borrows from the TV shows “Jeopardy” and the old “GE College Bowl.”
With two young women, the Wootton team won the battle of gender diversity in a field that’s traditionally dominated by boys in the advanced, 12th grade courses.
The Venice team fought for its points, with Dickinson challenging this answer in the second-to-last game: “At the end of its life, the sun will become: (W) a White Dwarf, (X) a neutron star, (Y) a Black Hole, (Z) a Pulsar.
Dickinson had answered “Black Dwarf,” before hearing all the possibilities. And when the answer was rejected, he pulled out a textbook from his knapsack, strode down the stairs from the dais to the judges, and had a little talk with an elder astronomer on the appeals panel.
It turns out the answer was perfectly OK, although “White Dwarf” was, too, depending on the condition of the star.
The team won an earlier dispute concerning cell biology that helped it gain a revenge victory over Arcadia High School, a California rival that had beaten Venice earlier in the double-elimination finals.