EDMOND — Members of the Edmond Santa Fe High School science team said they loved seeing the sights in the nation's capitol during their recent trip, and gained valuable experience to help them be more competitive in the future.
Five students and two teachers took part in the 22nd annual U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl April 26-30 along with 68 other teams. Team coach Mark Becannen valued the competitive experience for his young team. He admits he wasn't happy with the results.
“We did not do well,” he said. “I'm not making any excuses, but not having any seniors made a difference.”
Some of the smartest teens in the United States were invited to the national competition by the Department of Energy, which picked up the tab for travel expenses.
Santa Fe students on the team were Julia Zhu, junior; Jane Hsi, junior; Brandon Wong, sophomore; Steven Kappen, sophomore; and Jacob Rowe, sophomore. They won the chance to compete with a February victory against 24 Oklahoma teams in regional action.
The agenda included a lot of sightseeing — although more time was needed, Becannen said.
“I would have liked to have come a day earlier and seen more,” he said.
Another instructor, Laura Eckard, looked back on the whirlwind trip.
“We went to the D.C. Mall and in five hours visited the National Gallery and the Smithsonian,” she recalled. “It was a pleasure to travel with this group of students.”
Sunday it was time for the competition, a series of questions testing their knowledge about biology, chemistry, earth science, physics and astronomy.
The Santa Fe team competed in a nine-team Darwin Division but didn't advance out to the double elimination.
“We were a tossup question or two away from beating one or two of the teams,” Becannen said. As it was, they finished last.
“It made you raise your standards to want to be at that level,” said Brandon Wong. “We know what to expect for next time.”
Team co-captain Julia Zhu, who logged a perfect 36 on the ACT this year, agreed.
“It was worth it,” she said. “Next year we'll have seniors.”
Still, it was the overall experience of the trip that impressed the students. Wong said he enjoyed everything on the trip, noting the group usually started the day at 6 a.m. and was on the go until midnight.
Eckard said the students visited a convention where they heard from a scientist who helped find and research the sunken Titanic.
There were also stops at almost all the famed national monuments, where the group posed with the Santa Fe banner.
“This was a great learning experience,” Becannen said. “We hope to go back next year.”