On Saturday, March 6, seven teams representing seven high schools vied virtually for first place at the National Ocean Sciences Bowl Los Angeles regional competition. Hosted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the past 22 years, the 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.
Teams consisted of four to five members. They plowed through several preliminary rounds and two team challenge questions before the six remaining teams competed in a single-elimination bout. The event lasted more than five hours, and while the same rules that apply to the face-to-face competition of past years applied to this year’s, there were extra guidelines to keep the onscreen competition fair and flowing.
Santa Monica High School took first, marking the school’s sixth straight win in the regional competition. Irvine’s University High School came in second – one step up from their third place showing in 2020 – and Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet rounded out the top three.
For Theodore Berger, Santa Monica High School’s team captain, the drive to keep their winning streak going was especially stressful. “As a senior, I feel pressure to leave something for the people coming after me,” he said.
They’ll have their work cut out for them next year since the teams from both University High School and Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School have their eyes on the top prize. “We’ll get there,” said Daniel Feng, University High School’s team captain.
For Ingo Gaida, who’s been leading Santa Monica in the bowl for more than two decades, switching to a remote setup is just one more opportunity to be savored. “It’s fun to do it in person,” he said, “but it’s also fun to do it this way. I'm really proud of all the kids, they studied a lot. It was great.”
Santa Monica High School and the winners of the other 20 regional contests will duke it out virtually May 7 through 17 in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl finals.
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.