With five seconds left on the clock, the Ligon Middle School Science Bowl team was down eight points. It would have to get the toss-up and bonus questions right to win the round and stay in the competition.
“They were very stressful moments,” said Rohan Pasi, a Ligon eighth-grader. “My heart was pounding.”
The Raleigh school’s team won the round and eventually became champion of the Carolinas Regional National Science Bowl in Charlotte. In April, the team of five will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete against 50 other middle school teams in the National Science Bowl Finals.
The U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl is a nationwide competition in which students are tested on a range of science and math categories from biology to physics. It’s open to middle school and high school teams that qualify by winning their regional competitions.
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As a side competition, each middle school team will design, build and race a battery-powered car.
Ligon Middle School started competing in Quiz Bowl competitions three years ago and added the National Science Bowl this year.
The first year, teacher Betsy Pittman and parent-coach Steven Gebeaux started meeting with six students to practice. The team has since grown to 15 members.
Students Aman Kapoor, Rohan Pasi, Subhag Kotrannava, Ekartha Sharma and Quinn Gebeaux make up the team that will compete in Washington, D.C., from April 28 to May 5.
The top 16 teams for each level of competition will win $1,000 for their schools.
As an added bonus, the Ligon students will visit the National Mall and attend science lectures. While they are excited to make the trip, some said they’re nervous.
“It was a happy moment but kind of scary,” Ekartha said of learning the team made it to the national competition. “The people who won last year in D.C. did really well. It’s intimidating to think about that. We have to do that in two months.”
To relax and keep the mood light, the students play games like Frisbee between rounds.
“It’s like what you see on TV with ‘Jeopardy!’” Kapoor said. “I take it just for fun.”
Knopf: 919-829-8955, @tayknopf