The decision 26 years ago by the city-owned public power utility, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP), to serve as the main sponsor for the regional competition in the U.S. Department of Energy's annual Science Bowl has paid big dividends for local schools and students who have won financial awards and scholarships.
The latest regional competition was held in February. The national competition was held from April 25-29 in Washington, DC and featured the five-student North Hollywood High team winning third place out of a field of 64 teams.
North Hollywood High has won 20 regional competitions over the last 22 years. By doing so, the team won $2,000 for the school and each team member received a $1,000 Hitachi scholarship, according to Walter Zeisl, LADWP manager of education outreach. The school also received trophies and individual team members were awarded medals.
A total of $25,000 in scholarships, school awards and prizes were presented to teams placing among the top four in the “buzzer” competition and to students in that part of the event and in the “hands-on” competition at the regional competition. But other organizations also contributed to the regional program in addition to LADWP and Hitachi including the Water and Power Community Credit Union, Office Depot and a local supermarket chain.
At the national competition, the team won $1,000 for the school’s science department for winning the division in the preliminary Round Robin Competition. The school also won a trophy and team members were awarded with medals.
North Hollywood High School team members included Captain Albert Liu, Hangyul Lyna Kim, Thomas Panenko, Cindy Xie and Albert Zhang with Altair Maine and Len Soloff serving as their coaches.
Though the competition is billed as a science bowl, Zeisl said it also includes questions about math, ITS and current events.
LADWP's participation in the Science Bowl began in 1993 at the request of the DOE’s Western Area Power Administration. They wanted to have a regional competition in Southern California after starting in 1991 around the U.S. and in Northern California.
"We decided to form our own region for the city," Zeisl said. "The region covers the area of the Los Angeles Unified School District but participation includes private, parochial and charter schools within the boundaries. We thought our schools would be competitive because local high school teams at that time and continuing today have won national championships in the Academic Decathlon Program.”
North Hollywood High was a standout beginning in 1998. "This particular school has won one national championship, five second-place finishes and 10 national awards," he said. Two other local schools have also won national championships. In all, LADWP regional champions have won 13 national trophies.
Zeisl likened the format of the competition to the popular game show Jeopardy, in which a moderator asks questions and students attempt to quickly respond buzzing in individually and then answering bonus questions as a team once the toss-up question is answered correctly.
Teams attend lectures and demonstrations from top scientists at the National Science Bowl. In addition, teams were able to visit monuments and museums in Washington, D.C.
LADWP general manager David Wright said North Hollywood High's performance is a "terrific accomplishment. We are so proud of the hard-working science students and their coaches. The students demonstrated that they are not only among the brightest high school students in Los Angeles, but in the nation. They represented our city and LADWP well. We congratulate them on an outstanding achievement."
To qualify for the national competition, the North Hollywood High School team won the 2019 LADWP Science Bowl, the 27th regional competition in February. Click here to see a video about the 2019 LADWP Regional Science Bowl Competition.
Some team members have participated in the competition over multiple years. Zeisl said the North Hollywood High captain has taken part in the competition for three straight years.
Additional information about the Science Bowl is available here.