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Feature Story | Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne National Laboratory hosts DOE Illinois Regional Middle School Science Bowl Competition

Middle school teams come together to compete virtually in this year’s 2021 DOE Science Bowl.

On Jan. 30 the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory hosted the annual Department of Energy (DOE) Illinois Regional Middle School Science Bowl in a virtual format for the first time. Ten middle school teams from seven different schools competed in answering science-related trivia questions, demonstrating how Argonne strives to maintain fun and exciting STEM opportunities for youth during the ongoing pandemic.

This is really the first group participation activity that has happened in our school this school year. It has been tremendous, just to have a little something positive with everything else that keeps raining down.”— Barbara Will-Henn, Troy Middle School teacher

Science Bowl forms a critical component in our STEM pipelines, as it gets middle school students curious about science topics and teaches them to work together and problem-solve in teams,” said Education Outreach Coordinator Brandon Pope. Throughout the pandemic, the Educational Programs team and our diverse volunteer community from across Argonne have come together to ensure that students stay connected to our activities and continue to grow as science, technology, engineering and math learners.”

A student from Bednarcik Junior High School proudly displays her team’s first-place trophy from the 2021 Illinois Middle School Regional Science Bowl. (Image by Bednarcik Junior High School.)

Barbara Will-Henn, a teacher and Science Bowl coach at Troy Middle School, said at first she initially didn’t expect the Science Bowl to happen this year. But contrary to her worries, Troy Middle School was able to compete, winning third place in the competition. This is really the first group participation activity that has happened in our school this school year. It has been tremendous, just to have a little something positive with everything else that keeps raining down,” she said.

Daniel Wright Junior High School’s team discusses their strategy virtually for the 2021 Illinois Middle School Regional Science Bowl. The school won second place in the competition. (Image by Daniel Wright Junior High School.)

Several schools used the virtual structure to include more students in the Science Bowl, including Daniel Wright Junior High School, which placed second in the competition. The school has two teams each year. Usually only the varsity team gets to compete, but this year, the virtual setup allowed both teams to participate. We have students in lower grade levels that are now getting firsthand experience that they wouldn’t have normally gotten,” said Daniel Wright’s co-coach Tony Hafner. I think that that’s a benefit, that more of our students got to experience this.”

Bednarcik Junior High School came in first place at the Regional Science Bowl. Bednarcik’s team will advance to the National Science Bowl® Competition, where they will represent Illinois and compete for the National Championship against schools from across the country on Saturday, May 8.

Gemini Middle School students pose for team photos after competing in the 2021 Illinois Middle School Regional Virtual Science Bowl. (Image by Gemini Middle School.)

Bednarcik’s team greatly appreciated the unique competition experience. Science Bowl is fun and I think that more people should try to do it,” said Bednarcik eighth-grader Mary Cadena. Science Bowl is more than just groups of kids answering questions about science. It’s about being a team, about having fun. I don’t think I really have ever been so dedicated to a subject ever.”

By hosting Science Bowl virtually this year, we continue to support our mission to connect world-class research to tomorrow’s STEM problem-solvers,” said Educational Programs and Outreach Manager Meridith Bruozas. The fact that we have succeeded adapting the Science Bowl and other educational activities to virtual forms demonstrates both the lab’s dedication to educating youth and our volunteer community’s steadfast support for that mission. Events like this make a positive difference in students’ lives, and they need inspiration and support now more than ever.”

The 10 teams competing in the 2021 DOE Illinois Regional Middle School Virtual Science Bowl include:

  • Bednarcik Junior High School (first place)
  • Daniel Wright Junior High School (second place, two teams)
  • Franklin Elementary Fine Arts Center
  • Gemini Middle School (two teams)
  • Thomas Metcalf School
  • Troy Middle School (third place)
  • Whitney Young Magnet High School (two teams)

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://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.