The annual Illinois Regional Middle School Science Bowl Competition has long challenged teams of students to answer trivia questions covering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Up until 2020, Science Bowl — which is hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory — was held in person, but in 2021, it became a virtual competition. With the new format offering advantages over an in-person competition, Argonne plans to continue to run the Science Bowl virtually. On Jan. 29, this year’s competition kicked off.
“The Science Bowl is a great way to get students engaged in STEM learning outside the classroom,” said Brandon Pope, Argonne’s outreach coordinator. “We want to expand the reach of our regional competition. However, that can be hard when we hold the event in person, which requires significant time and resources on the part of schools. Now, schools can compete virtually, letting schools participate more easily than ever before. Many new schools have joined Science Bowl for the very first time in the past two years. This connects with Argonne’s larger efforts to expand the reach of its STEM programming and to become accessible for more students and communities across the Chicago area.”
“This is an opportunity for our academically talented students to compete and shine. The competitions create a strong science connection for students. The way that Argonne can figure out innovative ways to still interact with kids and provide opportunities for them to share what they know is a gift.” — Robin Dombeck, Maple School coach
This year’s Science Bowl also stood out by featuring an extra event: STEM chats, in which students got to meet with STEM researchers from across Argonne. Nuclear engineer Melissa Rose was one of the speakers, and she said that a favorite part of her job is being able to hold uranium in her hands. “Find out what you’re passionate about, and follow it,” she encouraged students. “If something interests you, own it and go all in.”
Students enjoyed the STEM chats in between the competition rounds. Argonne may include more STEM chats in future competitions. “The scientists, engineers and researchers we include in STEM chats are good at taking the complexity of what they do at the lab, and condensing it to key concepts that kids can understand and enjoy,” Pope said. “STEM chats, too, are something we developed for virtual programming in the past year, and it has proved fruitful.”
Quest Academy in Palatine, Illinois joined Science Bowl for the first time this year, with the team forming only a few months before the competition. Even so, the students were determined and eager to compete, with one student even considering it the highlight of his year. “I’m very proud of my students for their courage and being so passionate about science,” said Quest’s Science Bowl coach, Narayanan Krishnan. “They put in additional time to pursue their goal. Their enthusiasm and curiosity in STEM learning are life skills that will certainly make a difference in their future endeavors.”
Maple School in Northbrook, Illinois had its two teams win third and fourth place at the Science Bowl this year, and the students are eager for Argonne’s upcoming Middle School Electric Car Competition, too. “This is an opportunity for our academically talented students to compete and shine. The competitions create a strong science connection for students. They also provide activities that students can excel in and be recognized for,” explained Maple’s Science Bowl coach, Robin Dombeck. “The way that Argonne can figure out innovative ways to still interact with kids and provide opportunities for them to share what they know is a gift.”
The two teams from Daniel Wright Junior High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois won second and first place, with the first-place team set to compete virtually at nationals on May 7th this year. “I’m excited to compete against other schools alongside people I have grown closer with in the Science Bowl,” said Daniel Wright student Anusha Saraf. “I’m a little nervous, but we’re all looking forward to the experience. I can’t wait.”
Science Bowl continues to prove to be an invaluable source for STEM learning in the Chicago community. Congressman Bill Foster attested to the importance of STEM education when he spoke at the event. “STEM skills helped me build a career, and made me into who I am today,” he said. “Your interest in STEM will open you to a wide variety of diverse careers. Keep it up — your dedication will pay off.”
The 16 teams competing in the 2022 DOE Illinois Regional Middle School Science Bowl included:
- Daniel Wright Junior High School (2 teams, 1st/2nd place)
- Maple School (2 teams, 3rd place)
- Bednarcik Junior High School (2 teams)
- Edison Middle School
- Fairview South Elementary School
- Hadley Junior High School
- Holy Family Catholic Academy (2 teams)
- Jerling Junior High School
- Old Quarry Middle School
- Quest Academy
- Whitney M. Young Magnet High School (2 teams, 7th-8th graders)
This work was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS).
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.