Five young men and women from Brookfield Academy have earned a trip to Washington, D.C. this spring to show off their knowledge and passion for science.

Noah Ahmed, Jay Chand, Alex Zhu, Victoria Toledo and Pranav Kulkarni made up Brookfield Academy’s winning team at the 2017 National Science Bowl regional competition earlier this month and booked their ticket to the national finals in the nation’s capital.

The quintet was joined at regionals by another team of Brookfield Academy students made up of Ammar Razzaq, Ray Jiao, Yue Chen, Andrew Laeuger and Evan Stormowski and coaches Ed O’Sullivan and Sarah Konle. The school’s second team took sixth place at regionals.

The regional champs were led by team captain Alex Zhu, a senior from Brookfield who helped to found the school’s science club two years ago.

“We competed in our first Science Bowl competition just last year. I think it’s a good test of our science knowledge,” Zhu said. "We’ve been taking science courses in biology and chemistry, but I think with the Science Bowl it helps us to master our knowledge and put it all together."

Both Zhu and Toledo, a sophomore from New Berlin, also competed in the competition last year.

“We took fourth last year. Last year it was a lot of just getting used to it,” Toledo said. “This year it was more about practicing and I think we were more comfortable.”

The National Science Bowl uses a format with five or six different categories ranging from chemistry and physics to space and math.

“Every game has all of those categories mixed in, so it’s hard to pick a particular strength even though some of our students do have strengths in various areas,” O’Sullivan said.

For their part, Zhu and Toledo say that their specialties are math and space respectively. In that same vein, Zhu hopes to study biological sciences in college while potentially combining those studies with applied mathematics, while Toledo said that she would like to study either astronomy or shift to pre-med and become a doctor.

Classes help preparation

Both O’Sullivan and Zhu spoke highly of the many AP classes offered at Brookfield Academy and credited them with helping the team’s regional championship.

“It’s tremendous asset to the school in terms of preparing students for college where they can hit the ground running. I think that the main reason why our students did well this year is because of them,” O’Sullivan said.

In addition to their success at regionals, O’Sullivan was also proud of his students’ teamwork and camaraderie. While five members make up a team, only four are allowed to compete at a time.

“Victoria is the only sophomore on the team, so we agreed in advance that the four seniors would play more,” O’Sullivan said.

However, one of those seniors, Ahmed, was more than happy to share his seat with Toledo at a critical juncture of the competition.

“We had agreed prior to going that if we made it to the afternoon it would just be the seniors, but Noah Ahmed had recognized that Victoria’s parents were only able to come to watch in the afternoon, so he graciously agreed to let her play one of the games,” O’Sullivan said.

Nationals in D.C.

The 27th National Science Bowl will conclude April 27 through May 1 in Washington, D.C. The top 16 high school teams and top 16 middle school teams will win $1,000 for their schools’ science departments and the top two high school teams will earn special prizes to be announced at a later date.

Last year, the winning team was awarded with an all-expenses-paid, nine-day science trip to Alaska where they learned about glaciology, marine and avian biology, geology and plate tectonics. The second-place team won a five-day, fully guided adventure tour of several national parks.

“The National Science Bowl continues to be one of the premiere academic competitions across the country and prepares America’s students for future successes in some of the world’s fastest growing fields in science, technology and engineering,” U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science acting director Dr. J. Stephen Binkley said. “Each year the DOE Office of Science provides this unique opportunity and I am honored to congratulate all the competitors who are advancing to the national finals, where they will continue to showcase their talents as top students in math and science.”

Importance of science

Regardless of whether their future in Washington is likely to bring about glory, a special trip, $1,000 or just more fun and teamwork, O’Sullivan and his students are adamant in not only expressing their love for science, but encouraging others to find the same.

“Science really has the power to change the world either in good or bad ways, so people should really know the importance of it,” Toledo said.

O’Sullivan particularly expressed a desire for science to be more appreciated in the world of politics and public perception.

“We need to educate not only our students, but the general public,” O’Sullivan said. “Even if people are not going into a career in science, it’s important just so when they read the papers they can see what is fake news and what is something to be legitimately concerned about.”

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