Science team scores 2nd place in bowl

More than 500 people crowd an auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 23 to watch the finals of the Los Angeles regional science bowl. After nine hours of grueling questioning, the Harvard-Westlake team and the North Hollywood High School team face off in the final round of competition.

With Harvard-Westlake two points ahead, the moderator presents a biology question, which both teams miss. The timer rings and Jonathan Lee ’08, Andy Lucas ’08, Rebecca Jacobs ’09, Ben Barad ’09 and alternate Ilica Mahajan ’10, members of the school’s science bowl team, begin to celebrate their victory. The judges then announce that the official clock is not yet complete because the second timer had not rung, leaving one more question to be read.

The competitors’ hands hover over their buzzers as the moderator reads out the final question: a chemistry question about the reactivity of alkenes.

Lee’s hand speeds down towards the buzzer, but reaches it too late. The captain of the North Hollywood team answers the question correctly. With that, North Hollywood High School won the regional science bowl and will compete at the national science bowl in Washington D.C. in May. The Harvard-Westlake science bowl team, coached by math teacher Kevin Weis, received second place.

“The experience overall was very fun and exciting,” Lee said. “I was depressed that I didn’t get the last question correct, which cost us a trip to the nationals.”
Harvard-Westlake has never before competed in the science bowl. Mahajan started the team because she enjoyed competing with her former school Venice High School last year.

“It was exciting, intense, invigorating and beyond words,” Mahajan said.
Mahajan ran the practices, chose the team members and contacted Weis to be the coach for the A team and math teacher Jacob Hazard to be the coach for the B team.
Lee said many other schools’ teams hold hours of practice sessions daily. In contrast, Weis and the team practiced about once a week starting in January. Despite the limited practice sessions, the team won all of their rounds at an earlier practice science bowl.
“I went with pretty high hopes,” Weis said. “Once we got past the North Hollywood B team in an overtime win, I thought we could actually go all the way.”

The North Hollywood A team has historically won almost every Los Angeles regional science bowl.

“If we had won, we would have been the first private school to win the regional competition and the first team that would have won as a first time competing team,” Mahajan said.

Mahajan plans on continuing the team next year.

“We certainly made a name for ourselves,” Mahajan said. “Next year when we walk in, we will be a feared team.”