LAMS discovers science is fun

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By Kirsten Laskey

Possessing intellect is not the only vital component to being successful in science; having fun is also essential.

A team of Los Alamos Middle School eighth-graders put this theory to the test during the regional and national Science Bowl competitions, and their conclusion revealed enjoyment and brains are equally important.

The team, which included Scot Carlsten, Cickie Wang, Micha Ben-Naim and Myles Gurul, earned first place in the regional competition, held in April at Albuquerque Academy. They also tied for fifth place in the overall competition at nationals, held in June at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo.

The Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Lab sponsored the national competition.

The national competition was composed of an academic division and a fuel-cell car race, said eighth-grade teacher Barbara Jo Wrobleski-Mullis.

The academic division had several phases, Wrobleski-Mullis said. During the Pike’s Peak, or a Round Robin question-and- answer session, LAMS students had to answer questions from five categories, which included life, general, physical, earth and math. They took first place in this phase, she said.

Additionally, LAMS students participated in an oral presentation, in which they wrote and performed a puppet show. For this phase, students received a spot in the top 10. For the fuel cell car race, Wrobleski-Mullis said, the students just missed the cut-off for the timed trails. They placed 17th, and only the top 16 finishers could continue.

However, “I was very proud of our kids,” Wrobleski-Mullis said. “They were really good competitors. They were gracious losers and they represented Los Alamos well.”

Carlesten agreed the experience was valuable, adding he was very pleased that his team was able to go to nationals. During the experience, Carleston said, “I learned that studying really does help.”

For Wang, the experience sparked her interest in science. Before the competition, Wang said she wasn’t really interested in the subject but through the science bowl, “I realized how great science can be,” she said.

“It was an enjoyable experience,” added Ben-Naim, “and I also gained greater knowledge in science.” He encourages other students to become involved in the competition because “it’s fun and you can learn some things from doing (the science bowl) but mostly it’s fun.”

To prepare for the competitions, Wrobleski-Mullis said the team studied for 45 minutes every day after school.

Wang also credited team unity. “We worked really well as a team,” she said.

While several members of the team plan to continue in the science bowl in high school, Wrobleski-Mullis said she is hoping to recruit new members for the middle school team.