| News

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Western Pa. regional Science Bowl competition gets students going

Brain teasers

Are you as smart as a high school science ace? Test your skill with these sample questions from the National Science Bowl (answers below).

In DNA replication, which of the following molecules is synthesized in the same direction that the replication fork is moving?

A) Leading strand

B) Okazaki fragment

C) Primer

D) Lagging strand

In which of the following types of electrical equipment is high resistance most undesirable?

A) Superconducting magnet

B) Heater

C) Stove

D) Incandescent light bulb

A 100 microfarad parallel plate capacitor with air between the plates is connected to a 1.5-volt battery and becomes fully charged. The battery is disconnected from the capacitor, and a dielectric with a dielectric constant of 7 is inserted between the plates. What is the charge in microcoulombs on one plate of the capacitor after the dielectric is inserted?

Which of the following is not a feature produced by wave erosion?

A) Sea cave

B) Sea stack

C) Sea arch

D) Shoal

Which law of physics explains how a changing magnetic field can produce an electric current?

Answers: A; A; 150; D; Faraday's Law of Induction

Source: U.S. Department of Energy Science Bowl

Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 6:50 p.m.

After listening to a lengthy and involved question about the creation of isotopes, Mike Udovich turned to his fellow teammates from Baldwin High School, raised his hands in bewilderment and softly said, “What?”

“I've said that more than once today,” Udovich, 18, a senior, said on Saturday during a break in the regional competition for the National Science Bowl, held at the Community College of Allegheny County's South Campus in West Mifflin.

More than 200 middle and high school students from across Western Pennsylvania, in teams of four, furiously scribbled formulas, added and multiplied numbers in their heads, whispered among their teammates to confirm their answers, or simply took an educated guess on a multiple-choice question.

They had just a few seconds to come up with an answer for questions on subjects including energy, chemistry, physics, earth and space, and biology.

Semi-finalists from these high schools were chosen Saturday to compete in the regional finals on March 12: Hempfield Area; two teams from North Allegheny and Shadyside Academy. The winner of that match goes onto the national finals April 25-29 in Washington.

Thousands of students across the country have been competing in regional competitions since mid-January for a chance at the national finals for the bowl, managed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Organizers said the event is designed to boost students' interest in pursuing math and science careers.

Some students had the answers even before a moderator finished asking the questions.

“It was about as hard as I thought it would be,” said Lucas Marks, 17, a junior at Fox Chapel Area High School. “Some questions you don't know, and some you knew right off the bat. It's a good test of your abilities, and it will help with college. It's fun.”

Luke Brienza, 16, an 11th-grader at Hampton, said that most of his knowledge for the competition he “gathered from science classes.”

Perry Cheng, 15, a 10th-grader at North Allegheny Intermediate, is interested in a career in physics. He correctly answered that smallpox is the only infectious disease that has been eradicated from nature.

Though he admitted some of the questions were bewildering, “For the most part, I knew what (the moderator) was asking,” Cheng said.

Students sometimes laughed and looked at each other in bewilderment, unsure what the question even meant, let alone trying to solve it.

Udovich, who wants to get into a pharmacy program, said that some questions covered material he had not learned in school.

“It was a good way to spend a Saturday,” Udovich said.

Alex Gorr, 15, a sophomore at Greensburg Central Catholic, said that he's interested in either a scientific or medical career, and had been competing in the bowls for several years.

“I'm learning a lot of stuff” from the questions at the competition, said Gorr, whose mother, Kim Gorr, was the team coach.

For weeks, local students drilled using sample questions from prior competitions or brushed up on scientific knowledge after school.

“I want them to have fun with it,” said Hampton coach Mary Lou Ellena-Wygonik, an enrichment facilitator for the school district. “I want them to learn good sportsmanship and work well together, and they do.”

“These kids are amazing,” said Otis Mills, of Monroeville, an employee of the National Energy Technology Laboratory in South Park and bowl volunteer. “They not only can answer a variety of different questions, but they even can keep score in their heads. I feel more secure about our future.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for TribTotal Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or



Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

Show commenting policy

Most-Read Allegheny

  1. Pittsburgh mayor Peduto goes ‘Undercover’ for CBS reality show
  2. Peters-based My Big Fat Greek Gyro looks for boost from reality TV
  3. Search for Duquesne University graduate Kochu continues
  4. Police arrest 4 in Lincoln-Lemington following shooting
  5. Allegheny County district attorney prosecutors move on to state office
  6. Vigil honors 6 homeless who died in Pittsburgh in 2014
  7. Police arrest 4 juveniles allegedly connected to anonymous online school threat
  8. 8 Western Pennsylvania municipalities receive state grants to upgrade traffic signals
  9. Early morning crash injures two in Marshall
  10. Man shot in Allentown home
  11. Alliance aims to transform vacant parcel in St. Clair to include townhouses, urban farming