Students get chance to shine at Science Bowl competition - Catholic Courier

Students get chance to shine at Science Bowl competition

HENRIETTA — The winning team may have come from Syracuse, but students from Rochester and Buffalo proved to be formidable opponents during the 2009 Science & Technology Entry Program regional Science Bowl (STEP).

The annual quiz-style competition, with teams of four students facing off in several rounds of questions, offers minority students a forum in which to show off their knowledge skills and encourages them to consider careers in math or science, officials said.

Donna Augustine, Science Bowl coordinator, said that 24 teams participated in the event while one team observed. Several teams from the City of Rochester waited for two hours in the cold, early morning hours of Jan. 31 for a bus to take them to the competition at Rochester Institute of Technology, and they were greeted with cheers upon their arrival. The team from Monroe High School was among several teams that are members of the Program for Rochester to Interest Students in Science and Math (PRIS2M).

Juan Betancourt, who coached the Monroe High School team with fellow teacher Joann Bell, said that the students were very excited to compete. They were to talk about the competition at a recognition ceremony earlier this month at school, he said.

“They were very happy to share their experiences, and most of all the experience got them closer as a team,” he said.

Parent David Coons, who attended the Science Bowl with his wife, Jaqueline, and other family members to root for the Monroe team, recently moved back to the area after having lived in Boston and Brazil.

“It’s fantastic,” he said of the competition. “It helps them (students) to study and gets them a result, a fun result.”

Teams also represented Upward Bound, a federal precollegiate program that serves students from low-income families, and the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. Several area colleges and local companies sponsor these programs, including Monroe Community College, RIT, the University of Rochester, the State University of New York at Brockport and Fredonia, and Genesee Community College. Teams at the Science Bowl also represented Buffalo Biomedical Preparatory School, Syracuse University and Union College.

The winning Syracuse team moves on to the U.S. Department of Energy’s national event in May, which will include students from the competitions that the energy department cosponsors throughout the United States, Augustine said.

RIT served as the host site this year as part of the STEP regional consortium of area colleges, said Dianne Spang, director of the university’s office of K-12 Partnerships. MCC also has hosted past Science Bowl competitions, and having the event at

Augustine, MCC’s STEP coordinator, said that having the Science Bowl at different colleges demonstrates the schools’ collaboration, while Spang noted that the competition offers area students many benefits.

“It helps them prepare for college,” Spang said. “It talks about the importance of knowledge and information. It’s cool to be smart.”

A celebration of being smart is needed to combat the sense that students who engage in such academic pursuits are not considered to be cool by students involved in negative activities, she said.

“To get to show off their talent boosts their self-esteem,” she observed.

Monroe High School student and first-time Science Bowl competitor Abigail Caraballo said that she felt very nervous and was overwhelmed at how fast the other team answered questions during the early rounds of the event. Even so, she said that she enjoyed the spirit of competition.

“It’s a good experience,” she added. “You learn about other cities and how smart … people can be.”

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