The bell has rung at North Junior High, and school is out. But Max Arneson, London Lowmanstone, Ben Serstock and Jacob Youakim are still in one of the science classrooms this Tuesday afternoon.
This isn’t detention or study hall, though. The boys—along with Lucca Mancilo, who’s not present today—are in the midst of intense preparation for Saturday’s Science Bowl. They trade science facts, offer each other math tips and listen to their three coaches explain particularly thorny problems they encounter.
“I’m feeling pretty confident because we come here twice a week,” says Arneson, a seventh grader.
Teams at the Minnesota State Regional Science Bowl for Middle School Students—as it’s officially called—go head-to-head in a quiz-show-style format to see who knows the most about all branches of science and math. The winning team qualifies to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C.
Lowmanstone and Youakim, both eighth graders, are the team’s veterans. Both agree that last year’s event could be “nerve racking” and share tips with the others about what they learned.
But most of the preparation comes down to hard work.
The coaches—science teachers Becky Fritz, Pierre-Paul Gros and Jeremy Reichel—quiz the students on sample questions. When the students are stumped, they use online tools like Kahn Academy to study the topics or the teachers use iPads to walk them through the concepts.
“They’re really nice, but they make us work really hard,” says Serstock, a seventh grader.
Those questions can be tough., though.
While the topics are the same as what the students see in class, they go into much greater depth. Gros estimated the questions at a 10th grade level.
Says Reichel: “The subjects line up (with our curriculum), but the level of difficulty is way beyond it.”
That doesn’t deter the boys, though. All are interested in pursuing some form of science or math career—from designing robots that rescue people from natural disasters to designing videogames. They brag about each other’s strengths. Lowmanstone, in particular, is renowned for his math skills.
“I like being able to do problems fast,” he shrugs.
The team will likely face some tough competition when they travel to the Science Bowl this weekend. But win or lose, one thing’s clear: They’re having a blast learning about the world around them.
“It’s a fun place to just hang out and ask the questions that they’re interested in,” Reichel says.