University High School of Irvine, Calif., beat out 23 other local high schools in an all-day, "buzzer-beater"-style Science Bowl held at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
They came from many areas of Southern California -- from Palm Desert to Santa Barbara, from Irvine to Pasadena -- 24 teams of five students -- to compete in the 22nd annual JPL-sponsored Regional Science Bowl, a "Jeopardy"-style competition. The event was held over eight hours on Feb. 1 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
But at the end of the long day, only one team survived the double-elimination-style tournament: University High School from Irvine, Calif.
"We started this process in July," said University captain Jiho Park. "So it's the culmination of all our efforts since last summer, practicing as much as four or five hours a week as the competition got closer."
Jiho was in the same position last year, as they won the regional but then only placed fourth in the national. This time, he said, they hoped to go all the way.
Coordinated by the Department of Energy, the National Science Bowl quizzes students on biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and Earth and space sciences. The competition, which attracts about 20,000 middle and high school students nationwide, is designed to inspire students to pursue a career in science or math.
The program clearly works. When Jiho Park graduates University High School, he hopes to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and study biochemistry. From there, he says he'll get a Ph.D and work on research and development of drugs to fight cancer.
The University High School team will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, to compete in the National Science Bowl on April 24 to 28. Other prizes included a trophy, medals, winner's banner and NASA gear.
The runner up, Arcadia High School, also received medals and NASA gear. The sportsmanship award went to San Dimas High School for their exceptional graciousness with other teams and competition officials, spirit of fair play and enthusiasm for science. They were awarded a trip to Catalina Island to visit the Wrigley Marine Science Center, part of USC's Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.