The winning Santa Monica High School team
The winning Santa Monica High School team (left to right): Coach Ingo Gaida with studends Teddy Berger, Rosalind Jewett, Emily Chase, Sara Akiba and Ireland Neville Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Now on its fifth consecutive win at the JPL-hosted event, the team will move on to the national rounds in April.

On Saturday, Feb. 22, 12 teams representing 11 high schools duked it out for first place at the National Ocean Sciences Bowl Los Angeles regional competition at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Hosted by JPL for the past 21 years, the day-long contest (also known as the Surf Bowl) tests knowledge in the biology, chemistry, geology and physics of the oceans, as well as navigation, geography and related history and literature. The teams - each consisting of four students and an alternate - completed a round-robin competition, team challenge questions to test critical thinking and a double-elimination bout.

The victor: Santa Monica High School. This marks the school's fifth straight win in the regional competition. Santa Monica High School remained undefeated throughout the day, with Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School's Team A (the school brought two teams) nipping at its heels. Irvine's University High School placed third, while Crescenta Valley High School won the Sportsmanship award.

Asked mid-morning how the competition was going, Santa Monica High senior Ireland Neville offered a glimpse into his team's strategy: "Three letters: W-I-N."

During a midday break, Francisco Bravo's Team A captain senior Joyce Chung said, "It's a very nerve-wracking competition, but it's also a lot of fun." Her team's strategy? "One step at a time. Step one was to get through the morning rounds."

The next stop for Santa Monica High is the National Ocean Sciences Bowl finals, held April 16 through April 19 in Long Beach/Gulfport, Mississippi. They took second there last year, behind Northern California's Albany High School.

Santa Monica High's Ingo Gaida was there. In fact, he's been coaching the high school through the competition for two decades. What keeps him going? "It's entertaining, exciting," he said. "I'm a trivia person. I like the challenge of it."

Coordinated by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the National Ocean Sciences Bowl is designed to address a national gap in environmental and earth sciences in public education by introducing high school students to and engaging them in ocean science, preparing them for ocean science-related and other STEM careers, and helping them become knowledgeable citizens and environmental stewards.

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Matthew Segal
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.