- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 28, 2004

Here’s a physics question for you: What two elements are most commonly used as doping agents for silicon in n-type semiconductors? Answer: arsenic and phosphorus.

Or how about an astronomy query that might be a bit easier? If the Hubble constant is 75 kilometers per second per megaparsec, how many megaparsecs away is a galaxy whose velocity of recession, as measured by its red shift, is 15,000 kilometers per second? Stumped? Answer: 200.

Both questions were among those that students from 22 high schools faced yesterday during the 2004 Regional Science Bowls. The all-day event, hosted by the Department of Energy (DOE) at its headquarters on Independence Avenue, is meant to encourage high school students to pursue careers in science and math.

Teams from eight District and 14 Maryland schools fielded tough questions in biology, chemistry, physics, math, general science and astronomy, with winners from each jurisdiction going on to participate in the 14th annual National Science Bowl in May at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase.

The national-champion team wins a two-week trip to London to attend the International Youth Science Forum.

“We sponsor this event because we want to make students aware of what scientists do — and in a very indirect way we are exposing them to all areas of science,” said Peter Faletra, who works in DOE’s Office of Science.

“A lot of people think it’s just a competition, but it’s not. We want students [to experience] the excitement of science,” he said.

The buzz during the early competition yesterday centered on Benjamin Banneker Academic High in Northwest. The team, led by captain Zainep Mahmoud, 17, won round after round until the late afternoon. Then Sidwell Friends School took first place for the District and won the right to attend the nationals in the spring.

“We’ve been strangely calm — the questions are hard, but we are getting through them,” Zainep said earlier yesterday after squaring off against Dunbar High School, Thurgood Marshall Academy and National Cathedral School.

Zainep’s teammate, Phap Do, 18, said his teammates were holding up pretty well.

“The questions are difficult, but my biggest problem is the buzzer,” Phap said. Although physics and math were not his particular strengths, it didn’t make all that much difference since he and his four teammates operated as one. He focused on his strong suits: biology and astronomy.

It was a first appearance for Justin Williams and his teammates at Thurgood Marshall Academy, a public charter high school in Southeast. After two tough rounds with Banneker, Justin said he and his team could have done better.

Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and Thomas Wootton High School in Rockville faced off for the Maryland prize at the very end. Anran Wang, 17, the captain of the Montgomery Blair team, never lost confidence in his group’s abilities.

“There’s a lot of anxiety. We missed more than we should have, but, all in all, we’re doing all right,” he said before he and his teammates emerged victorious, giving Montgomery Blair the honors for Maryland. The high school will compete at the nationals in the spring.

John Shen, 17, also a Montgomery Blair student, said the day was emotion-filled.

“It’s a very interesting mixture. There’s excitement and anxiety but also camaraderie,” he said. “There’s good chemistry — in both senses — and that’s what makes it fun.”

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