University High School in Irvine is headed to the National Science Bowl after besting 19 other teams at a regional competition hosted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, officials announced Monday.
It was the fourth consecutive year that University High won the regional competition, which was held virtually for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“During the preliminaries, we weren’t performing as well as we wanted to,” said senior Nicholas Ouyang, University High School’s team captain. “And during the final rounds, you don’t know how the other teams are doing, so it’s really high-stress. But learning about science and working with others who also love science is really fun.”
Coach David Knight said he was impressed with how the team responded to the new format.
“They did a great job, especially with the teamwork,” he said. “There wasn’t one person who was just dominating.”
The teams faced a gauntlet of complex math and science questions, with topics ranging from biology to chemistry and beyond. A sample bonus question from a past year went as follows: “If the flower color red is dominant and white is recessive, what will be the expected phenotypic ratio of red to white flowers in the first generation of a cross between parent plants both heterozygous for flower color?”
Fullerton’s Troy High School took second place, and Santa Monica High School placed third.
University High School will compete in the preliminary rounds of the National Science Bowl — which is hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy — beginning in April, with a virtual elimination tournament for the top 32 high school finalists on May 22.