Inaugural Country Day Science Bowl team ranks third in county

Think “Jeopardy”, but with students on a Zoom platform. And instead of questions on a plethora of topics, it’s all about science. That’s Science Bowl.

Country Day’s Science Bowl team, founded this year by freshman Saheb Gulati and advised by chemistry teacher Victoria Conner, placed third in the Sacramento Regional Science Bowl competition. 

The competing team included Gulati, seniors Arijit Trivedi and Nihal Gulati and juniors Adam Akins and Samhita Kumar. Other club members include junior Ryan Paul, sophomore Alex Shuler and freshman Ryan Xu.

Science Bowl is a fast-paced buzzing game that covers topics such as biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and math. 

The national competition is run by the U.S.  Department of Energy, and 62 teams from different U.S.  regions are sent each year. Each region’s first-place team moves on to nationals.

Country Day made it to the top four, but that was when everything collapsed, Gulati said.

Teamwork issues, communication skills and timing problems caused the team to fail to capitalize on points and eventually caused the team to lose by six points in the semi-finals. 

Overall, the team played well, but Gulati was frustrated with the results due to the difficulty of the competition pool.

“The first-place teams from Idaho probably won’t be as good as the third-place team in a more competitive region,” Gulati said.

Ever since the pandemic and the shift toward the Zoom platform, the format of the competition has drastically changed, Gulati said.

“On Zoom, there’s no buzzing and no team you are directly going against,” Gulati said.

Instead, teams are put in their own individual breakout rooms and given questions to answer within a certain time period. 

In middle school, Gulati followed the footsteps of his older brother, Nihal, who also participated in the Science Bowl at Winston Churchill Middle School.

“I’ve always been interested in STEM, so Science Bowl was my go-to in middle school,” Gulati said.

When picking a high school, Gulati seriously considered Mira Loma High School because of its strong Science Bowl program, but eventually decided to join Country Day and start his own.

The team meets once a week in Room 25 to study for upcoming competitions.

Group studying consists of going through practice questions and gaining a familiarity with the type of questions being asked. Students are recommended to individually study by watching lectures and reading textbooks. 

For Conner, the toughest part of advising the team is quietly observing practices.

“Whenever a chemistry question pops up that I know the answer to, I try really hard to hold myself back from blurting out the answer,” Conner said. 

The team has competed in many competitions this year, but one of the more memorable ones was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology invitational tournament on Nov. 6, 2021. 

This competition invited the best teams from across the country, and Country Day was able to make it to the playoffs. 

Conner “clutched up” during the MIT invitational, Gulati said.

The first round began at 6 a.m., but an adviser needed to be present for it to start. 

“The team was unaware of this rule, so I quickly contacted Ms. Conner,  and she hopped on the Zoom,” Gulati said. 

Another notable tournament was the Centennial Autumn Science Tournament where they beat the powerhouse Mira Loma A team. 

After his older brother Nihal graduates, Gulati will miss the “dynamic duo” they had. 

“I’m hopeful that the underclassmen will step up and fill in their roles,” Gulati said.

— By Rod Azghadi

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