Twenty-two middle school teams and 16 high school teams of students from the Rio Grande Valley came together Feb. 26 at The University of Texas-Pan American to test brains rather than brawn at the Regional Science Bowl 2011.
The annual event was hosted by UTPA's Department of Community Engagement in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with the goal of fostering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
First place champions in both divisions of the academic competition won an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete at the National Science Bowl scheduled for April 28-May 2. Second and third place winners were awarded individual medals, and their respective teams received a trophy for their school's efforts.
Winning the high school academic competition was the Lamar Academy (McAllen ISD)-IB team, coached by Armando Madrigal. Team members included Naoki Eto, Bryan Kudisch, Arnold Tamez, Sean Ramirez, and Julian Martinez. Taking second place was Science Academy (South Texas ISD)-Team B and third place was Science Academy-Team A. Both Science Academy teams were coached by Scott Wiley.
First place winner in the middle school academic competition was the Seashore Middle Academy (Island Foundation Schools-Corpus Christi), coached by Katie Sikes. Students Matty Stirling, Thomas Evaristo, Sam Smith, Collin Willis, and Savannah Stirling were members of the winning team. Placing second was South Texas Prep Academy (South Texas ISD)-Team A, coached by Blanca Alvarez. Taking third place was Resaca Middle School (Los Fresnos CISD)-Team A, coached by Carlos Lainez.
Bryan Kudisch, a member of the victorious Lamar Academy-IB high school team, was excited about his team's win.
"I'm so excited, this is mind blowing. I've never competed in a science competition like this and how far we've gotten, it's really just a great experience and I love it," he said.
During the daylong event, high school students had the opportunity to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry by watching an entertaining and educational chemistry show led by the Elliott Chemical Society, a student organization at UTPA. Those students also had a chance to participate in creative chemistry-geared experiments and hands-on labs.
The middle school teams also were able to gain hands-on experience in the automotive design process and with hydrogen fuel cell technology by participating in the exciting Hydro Fuel Cell Car Competition. Students put their applied science and engineering skills they learned in designing and building their model cars by racing them on a 33-foot track through a number of heats to determine the winners.
Ramiro Barrera Middle School (Roma ISD)-Team A, coached by Selene Villarreal, took home the first place title in the car competition. Winning team members included Edgar Alanis, Leslie Puente, Ignacio Alonso Garcia, Emily Avila, and Giohany Benitez. Jose Borrego Middle School (Monte Alto ISD), coached by Rolando Rojas, came in second and Miller Jordan Middle School, (San Benito CISD), coached by Dr. Cindy Clayborn, came in third.
Sikes, who coached the winning high school team, called UTPA an excellent facility for the competition and expressed her appreciation to the University in offering these types of opportunities to students.
"Any competition that is at a higher academic level then what the students are achieving in their classrooms is only going to prepare them for the future. So, it's very important to me to make sure I offer my student these opportunities particularly in math and science," she said.
The DOE launched its National Science Bowl competition in 1991 to encourage high school students to excel in STEM fields and to pursue careers in those fields. In 2002 the DOE introduced the competition to middle school students. The National Science Bowl is the only science competition in the United States sponsored by a federal agency.
Funding for the event at UTPA was provided by the following University partners: The Kennedy Memorial Foundation, UTPA GEAR UP, Region One GEAR UP, and the U.S. DOE.