University Park Elementary pulled ahead early in the Science Bowl Championship game Tuesday, and could not be stopped by Cora L. Rice Elementary School, finishing with 320 points to Cora Rice’s 170.
“This feels amazing,” said Madeleine Wonneberger, a 12-year-old sixth-grader, after winning the game.
The school now has a fifth championship title, the most of any elementary school.
Science Bowl, the Prince George's County Public Schools televised science quiz show in its 26th year, poses students 30 questions in six science categories, incorporating current events and history, ranging in point value from five to 25. The tournament started in October with 40 elementary schools.
Team captain Charlie Dawson, who was in charge of the buzzer for University Park, was quick on the trigger, often buzzing in long before Science Bowl creator and host Dave Zahren was finished giving the clue.
“You want to be able to buzz in before the other team,” said Charlie, a 12-year-old in the sixth grade. “Sometimes you don’t really know the answer, you just have to make your best guess.”
He did just that when he guessed off the top of his head that Europa, Io and Callisto were the moons of Jupiter, or that a hematopathologist studies red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Madeleine and her teammate Surya Pukazhenthi said they were especially keen to win, because their older siblings had been on previous University Park teams, and had fallen just short of the title.
“I’m very competitive,” said Surya, 11, a fifth-grader. “My sister went far, but I got farther.”
Team coach Jeff Favero, a sixth-grade science teacher, said he’s had success in the 10 years he has been coaching Science Bowl teams at University Park because he doesn’t only look at students’ knowledge of science.
“A lot of Science Bowl is knowing vocabulary,” Favero said. “The kids who carry around novels, the kids who are really great readers, they get that vocabulary. The strongest readers also tend to know a lot of pop culture.”
Zahren said that making science practical — connecting theories and facts to the real world — is the whole point of the show. When the University Park team jumped almost out of their seats to answer a question about Tuesday’s transport of the space shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.
“When they jumped on that Discovery question like that, that’s exactly what we want to see,” Zahren said. “The whole point is scientific literacy. I want them to see the connections.”
In a semi-final matchup of giant legacy teams, University Park — winners in 1991, 2004, 2005 and 2006 — and Glenarden Woods — winners in 1995, 2007 and 2008 — faced off earlier in the day.
University Park carried the day 265 to 185 with their knowledge of subatomic particle neutrinos, Justin Bieber in space, and a supernova recently named after Maryland Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
The other semi-final match was between two schools that have never made it this far in the competition. Cora Rice Elementary School in Landover took and maintained an early lead over Rosaryville Elementary School, finishing up 280 to 215.
Trinity Moon, an 11-year-old sixth grader at Cora Rice in Kent, said that for herself and her teammates fifth-graders Prosun Das, 10, and Trinity Ingram, 11, those current events were their weakness.
“The Dateline Science category is really hard,” Moon said.
Coach Clark Baker said that for their second season following three years without a Science Bowl team, the second place finish was nothing to be upset about.
“We’re really proud of the team,” Clark said.