Clague Middle School students win third place in regional science bowl

 Left to right: Tanay Panja, Anita Gaenko, Akshar Cowlagi and Anirudh Venkat

Clague Middle School finished third in the Indiana Regional Middle School Science Bowl event for the states of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

The Clague team members are sixth grader Tanay Panja and eighth graders Anita Gaenko, Akshar Cowlagi and Anirudh Venkat.

Twenty teams from Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan competed in this regional event in Terre Haute, Indiana on Feb. 22. The science bowl is conducted by the Department of Energy. The kids are asked Jeopardy-style questions on the topics of science and math.

This year was the Clague team’s first participation in a National Science Bowl competition, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The competition format requires individual team members to buzz an answer to a toss-up question in a couple of seconds and get it correct to unlock a bonus question that the team can work together to arrive at the solution in less than 20 seconds. 

The team presents the trophy to the school.

Students solve technical problems and answer questions on a range of science disciplines including biology, chemistry, earth and space science, physics, and math.    

While the Sycamore Middle School team won the Regional Science Bowl to advance to nationals, Clague Middle school is the highest-finishing one among the schools from Michigan and Ohio.

After losing the first round, the Cougars won all the remaining four rounds and secured the highest score in their group to move on to the double-elimination matches in the afternoon. In the afternoon matches, the Cougars played five rounds, and lost only to the Sycamore teams, finishing in third place. 

Each Clague competitor commented on the experience:

Akshar said, When going into the competition I was probably the most negative and thought we were going to get demolished in every round. During the first round, I felt even worse about our chances as we were freezing even if we knew the answer and then we lost our game. But during the second game, we went on to beat the next team by a lot. We then continued to get on a streak and win game after game. Even if we didn’t get the first place I am still proud of myself and my team for making it to third on our first try.”

Anita said: “When there were less than 30 seconds left on the clock and we knew there was no way the other team could catch up, there was that moment when we realized that no matter what, we were going to win that round.”

Anirudh said: “After the first round, we walked out, disappointed at our loss at our first official science bowl match. We quietly walked into our second round, with an undeniable desire to get on top. We were able to let go of the travel wheels, rid ourselves of the nervousness, and just have fun. We went on to win the match by more than 50 points. It was at that point in the competition that we all knew that we belonged.”

Tanay said: “All team members had to study more in one or more areas of science and I chose Life Science and Mathematics. I enjoyed the practice sessions and learned the value of teamwork. The most challenging part was to process the question, come up with the answer, maintain composure and press the buzzer all in less than 2-3 seconds. The 8th graders always supported me in the learning process. I look forward to participating and sharing my experience in the science bowl with other participants.”

Thanks to the efforts of Clague coaches Vijayapriya Cowlagi, Ajitha and Sasha Gaenko, the students have been meeting after school to prepare for the event. The school science teacher and the Science Olympiad training had helped them prepare for the event.

Anirudh Cowlagi, the technical advisor of the Cougar team and captain of the regional championship-winning Huron High School Science Bowl team, said: “Although I wasn’t able to attend the competition myself, it was rewarding to see the progression that every single one of them showed over the course of the last few months. As a competitor in the high school division, I hope to see similar levels of enthusiasm in the future, whether that enthusiasm stems from the rush of answering a question correctly or learning about all kinds of new phenomena, from stellar explosions to subatomic collisions. I can only hope that the Science Bowl team at Clague continues to grow in size and stature in the coming years, and my fellow team members and I would be happy to be involved in any part of this process.”

Ajitha Devarajan, the team’s coach and a Clague Science Olympiad coach, said: “I remember marking the score sheet and feeling happy when the Cougars could buzz ahead for a hard question, and feeling sad when the other team pressed the buzzer when I knew that our team could have answered,” said “It was a new fast-paced excitement that I was not prepared for!” 

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