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NOBCChE Science Bowl celebrates young scientists

by Marsha-Ann Watson
October 30, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 40

The National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) celebrated youth in science this year with a Science Bowl competition held during its annual conference. The Science Bowl was launched in 1989 to promote interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) among Black students. The competition encourages high school students from underrepresented groups to pit their science knowledge against their peers in a quiz-show format. The competition often serves as the finale of the conference’s STEM week, which provides educational activities for K–12 students. The competition was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic but returned this year during NOBBChE’s virtual conference.

NOBCChE chapters often hold regional competitions to determine which teams will participate in the Science Bowl during the annual conference. The 2021 final participants included 32 students across eight teams—five from Rochester, New York, and three from Saginaw, Michigan. In a change from previous years, this year’s competition included a junior division of participants in grades 6–8 in addition to the senior division of students in grades 9–12.

The competition, held Sept. 18, was moderated by NOBCChE volunteers and sponsored by the American Chemical Society, Merck & Co., and other exhibitors. While two teams of four students usually face off during in-person competitions, this year the teams answered questions in virtual rooms with shortened times for responding. After a 2 h quiz, the winners were declared. The five teams coached by Kelvin Knight from Urban-Suburban STEM in Rochester dominated the competition. The junior division team from Rochester made up of Nhaziah Bedell-Scott, Eli (Elias) Gray, Izaya Sandsan, and Krishna Tangirala won first-place medals, a $50 award for each participant, and a trophy.

The first-place winners from the senior division, Latavion Alexander, Oren Poleshuck Kinel, Rahul Ravi, and Rick Zhou, received medals and $200 prizes. The second-place team in the senior division included Clint Bilodeau, Isaac Gray, Samuel Gray, and Zion Thomas. Members of the second-place team received $100 each and took home a trophy and participation medals.

Danielle Watt, a member of the Science Bowl’s organizing committee, noted that despite the virtual format and lack of head-to-head competition, “the sportsmanship really showed on that day.” Students from teams that didn’t place had “authentic happiness and congratulatory messages” for their peers, she says. Watt says it’s great to see students from underrepresented groups excited about science. She is looking forward to an in-person Science Bowl competition at NOBCChE’s national conference in Orlando in 2022.



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