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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Arcadia Weekly / Arcadia High wins Regional Science Bowl via JPL, heading to national championship meet

Arcadia High wins Regional Science Bowl via JPL, heading to national championship meet

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After an intense virtual competition that required months of training and hours of anxiety, the Arcadia High School Regional Science Bowl team is heading to the national championship meet in Washington, D.C. slated to begin in late April.

During the JPL-hosted event on Jan. 22, the team of five young Arcadia High students were joined by the team’s coach – Cherryl Mynster – to answer science-based questions in a quick and efficient manner in order to stand out over the competition.

In what was the 30th anniversary of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory hosting the Southern California regional competition, the event brought together several high schoolers throughout Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Santa Barbara counties to compete against each other. Arcadia’s last victory came in 2015, and this is now the eighth time Arcadia escaped with a victory.

“It was pretty intense throughout,” said Arcadia senior Sonia Zhang, who has competed in the bowl alongside her twin sister Selena since they were sophomores. “It was just a lot of hard questions. … The pacing was really quick.”


Arcadia High School’s victorious Regional Science Bowl team after winning the JPL-hosted event on Jan. 22, 2022, clockwise from top left: coach Cherryl Mynster with students Sonia Zhang, Jeshwanth Mohan, Brian Lam, Xing Liu, and Selena Zhang. | Courtesy photo

Arcadia High escaped the tournament and defeated Irvine’s University High School, who themselves had won the competition for the past four years. Overall, 22 high schools participated.

Regional Science Bowl tournaments take place across the country in the lead-up to the National Science Bowl, which is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and includes an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington for participating teams. The first national competition took place in 1991; JPL has been hosting the regional annual event since 1993.

According to Kim Lievense, who manages JPL’s Public Services Office in the Communications and Education Directorate, the questions asked have gotten far more difficult over the years. Now, students are quizzed at a first-year college level in a multitude of categories such as biology, chemistry, Earth and space science, energy, math and physics. And teams have just seven seconds to answer individual questions.

“I love this competition. I love interacting with the students, and I love interacting with the volunteers,” Lievense said. “It’s just fun.”

Arcadia High students stated that competing remotely actually made it more difficult, as the pressure facing the students seemed to increase even more than participating in-person.

“In this format, you’re under more pressure to know the information well because you can’t rely on the other team to screw up,” Sonia Zhang said.

However, those five Arcadia students were able to overcome that pressure due to what they described as the “power of friendship.” After every round the Apaches were complimented on their teamwork, and the five students credited their extra hour of chatting after study sessions – and their connection away from curriculum – as the biggest motivator behind their success.

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