Madison American Indian students take second trip to National Science Bowl

A group of five students from the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) American Indian Science and Engineering Society is headed to Washington D.C. this weekend to compete in the National Science Bowl.

The team earned the opportunity by defeating nine other teams at the Intertribal Middle School Science Bowl in Albuquerque, N.M. on March 22 and 23. This is the second year in a row they will compete in the National Science Bowl.

The National Science Bowl is a fast-paced competition to test middle school students’ knowledge of math and science, ranging between pre-algebra, algebra, earth science, physical science, life science, and the history of science.  Difficulty levels vary depending on the round. 

This year, the National Science Bowl team is composed of the same members as last year: Gabriel Saiz eighth-grade, Hamilton Middle School; Jorge Saiz, seventh-grade, Hamilton Middle School; Timothy Byington-Fish eighth-grade, James C. Wright; Gabe Burns, eighth-grade, Cherokee Heights; and Vaughan Bahr seventh-grade, James C. Wright. 

The team meets three times per week for up to two hours with their tutors, Sam and Dave Heo, UW-Madison students.  They go over practice questions and explore a broad range of potential topics to be covered at the Bowl.

“Questions are not those that you will necessarily see in a classroom setting, so you are exposed and made aware of things that you do not know, allowing [students] to see how broad science is,” Sam Heo said.  “They get the scope of how much they have to learn and that motivates them.  They can figure out which type of science they like due to the range that the bowl covers.”

Competing in the Bowl also gives students a chance to apply their scientific knowledge outside the classroom.

“It’s more hands-on,” said team member Gabe Burns. “Instead of just reading you can experience the material and understand better.”

Studying the material also gives the students an edge in their science classes.

“I’m learning information and subject material that I’ll have to learn next year in high school,” said Gabriel Saiz, the team captain.

In Washington D.C., the team will compete again 113 other teams from around the country. The team will also showcase a model car they built, run off a lithium ion battery fuel cell.  The car will run in time-trials against other teams.    

“Our goal is to get past the round robin and go into the big elimination rounds and get as far as we can.  We have more experience than last year and are more prepared,” said Saiz.

Whether or not they win, the team will be guaranteed an enriching educational experience.

“The knowledge that they gain, the teamwork they’re learning, the traveling experience, and meeting more students nationwide, that’s what’s so great about the Science Bowl,” said Denise Thomas, the coordinator for the district’s American Indian Science and Engineering Society.