While most of us are sleeping late on Saturday mornings, dozens of Eastside students are sitting in front of their computers for 8 a.m. Skype sessions on atomic energy, physics and life science.
Last weekend, five of these kids — all of them middle schoolers involved with the Bellevue-based Science Infinity Club — traveled to Portland and won the regional competition of the National Science Bowl.
Next stop: Washington, D.C., for nationals in April.
The club, which meets on weekends and after school, includes about 60 students from across the Eastside and as far north as Everett.
Akshath Sivaprasad, a senior at Interlake High School, started it three years ago as nothing more ambitious than a study group for other science-minded teens like himself.
But during the club’s short existence, its members have three times won the regional Science Bowl competition for middle school kids, and next weekend Sivaprasad plans to compete at the high school level.
“I think we have a good shot,” he said.
Sponsored by the federal Department of Energy, the Science Bowl boasts some impressive prizes. Top high school and middle school teams will win $1,000 for their schools’ science departments. Last year Mira Loma High School, of California, won the Grand Prize, a nine-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Alaska for in-depth study of glaciology and plate tectonics.
To get there, they had to endure 17 rounds of grueling, quiz-show style questions. Teams that falter for even a micro-second lose their chance.
“These are sort of whiz kids,” said Ram Rathnam, one of Science Infinity’s parent organizers. “But they’re also very civic-minded. They really like to motivate other kids on tough subjects like explaining how atomic theory works and so forth.”
The skeptical questioner can’t help but wonder: Do the Science Infinity eighth-graders ever know more than their classroom teachers?
“Oh, certainly,” said Rathnam with a laugh.
Are you smarter than a middle-school science whiz? Try out some sample questions from the National Science Bowl.