Memo to those struggling to solve California's energy crisis: Your saviors may be in high school. On Monday, California schools dominated the U.S. Department of Energy's National Science Bowl, with North Hollywood High School snatching first place.
U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham awarded the championship team a trophy and a trip to London--but, unfortunately, no megawatts.
In the 11th annual math and science quiz bowl, Troy High School in Fullerton placed second. Fremont's Mission San Jose High School finished third, followed by a team from Cincinnati, and then Mira Loma High School in Sacramento.
"We have some real top scholars here in California. At this rate, with them in leadership, we may not run into problems like we've run into this summer," said Darlene Battle, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The DWP organized the regional competition that sent North Hollywood to Chevy Chase, Md., outside Washington, for the national finals.
The science bowl is modeled after the "General Electric College Bowl" quiz show, which ran on radio and then television from 1953 to 1970. Teams of four (with an alternate standing by) answer questions about astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, Earth science, physics, math and advances in technology.
Teams could be asked to name past Nobel Prize winners, place Tyrannosaurus rex in geologic history or calculate the speed of a rolling ball.
Los Angeles teams--all from the Los Angeles Unified School District--have now won the Department of Energy's national title four times in the last seven years.
On Monday, North Hollywood and Troy were the last teams standing in the two-day, double-elimination tournament, but because they each had a win over the other, a third match had to break the tie. In that final game, North Hollywood trounced Troy, outscoring the Orange County school 192 to 56.
"It can be at times a mind game and, when you're confronted with a national competition like that, it can be quite stressful," said North Hollywood team member Daniel Bersohn, a senior.
In all, about 300 high school students on 61 teams from 40 states competed in the championship contest. About 11,000 students from 1,800 high schools participated in regional competitions leading up to the national tournament.
"It's an awesome thing," North Hollywood's first-year coach Len Soloff said after the awards were handed out Monday.
He praised Bersohn, seniors Jeanne Shen and Jeff Zira, the team's captain, and juniors Julia Hu and David Lee. The students have been practicing since October.
"They are a championship [team] because, No. 1, they work very well together," Soloff said. "They trust each other. They count on each other to prepare."
For winning the national championship, North Hollywood's students had their choice of five trips to study science.
Because scheduling conflicts would have prevented some on the team from traveling to Australia, their first choice, they chose to spend two weeks in London this summer for the International Youth Science Forum.
"Two weeks in London--who can argue with that?" Bersohn said. The school, and the other 17 top finishers, also won $1,000.
North Hollywood's contestants, all of whom attend the school's highly gifted magnet program, were on a plane to Los Angeles on Monday night. A lunchtime rally is scheduled today on campus, although team members Zira and Lee will miss it to take their Advanced Placement test in computer science.
This is the L.A. Unified School District's second major trophy of the jammed academic competition season.
Last month, El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills won the U.S. Academic Decathlon in Anchorage.