having five seconds to answer the following question: What is the
shape of a molecule that has four identical pairs of electrons in
Uh, time's up, do you have your answer?
Bayfield High School student Katrina Werchouski does. It's "tetrahedron."
Werchouski was one of six Bayfield High
School students who recently attended the Native American Science
Quiz Bowl in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Teams of Native American
students from across the country met at Colorado College for a two
day showdown of their knowledge in astronomy, biology, chemistry,
computer science, earth science, general science, mathematics and
physics. Bayfield's team, coached by Biology Teacher Mr. Mark O'Neill,
included Katrina Werchouski, Darnell Belanger, Matt Bresette, Samantha
DeFoe, Lynna Gurnoe and Denise Warner.
Bayfield's team players, all Red Cliff
tribal members, were selected based on their course work and past
achievements in science. In December of 2001, the team began meeting
after school to study and review practice questions. Coach O'Neill
remarked that they made a point to keep their study sessions fun.
"The overall focus of the competition is to get kids interested
and involved in science and math, so we try not to lose sight of
Having put in significant practice time,
the team flew from Duluth to Colorado Springs in mid-February, scheduling
a well earned day of sight seeing and relaxation prior to the competition.
As first time participants in the science bowl, the team didn't
know what to fully expect. But it didn't take long to find out.
A pre-competition practice match found them in a small room facing
off with a team from Oklahoma in front of a moderator, a rules judge
and a time keeper.
"It was very intense, " recalls
team captain Werchouski, "you really have to pay attention
Here's how the quiz bowl works. Four students
from each team participate in a sixteen minute match. Students are
equipped with pencil, paper, and a buzzer. The moderator reads each
question by first announcing the subject category: astronomy, biology,
chemistry, computer science, earth science, general science, mathematics
or physics. Questions are either short answer or multiple choice.
After the question is read, players on either team have five seconds
to hit their buzzer for an opportunity to be the first team to answer
If a player answers the question incorrectly,
the opposing team is given an additional five seconds to buzz in
with an answer. However, if the player answers correctly, the team
is awarded four points and is given the opportunity to answer a
bonus question. Bonus questions are typically more challenging and
are worth ten points if answered correctly. The team is allowed
to consult with each other during the twenty second time period
they have to answer a bonus question. The team with the most points
at the end of the sixteen minute wins the match.
"Generally speaking, the questions
are not easy," O'Neill remarked. "They are often very
involved within the subject matter and the vocabulary alone is quite
Once a question is read out loud, it cannot
be repeated. This demands that players stay focused and alert throughout
the match. "It's a lot of information coming at the students.
They have to pay attention and think fast if they want to get a
shot at answering before the other team," said O'Neill.
Several of the questions required players
to write down math problems and chemical formulas in order to work
out an answer within the five second time limit.
The Bayfield team played seven consecutive
matches the first morning of the competition. They won four, tied
one and lost two. This put them in good standing for the afternoon,
double elimination tournament. "By lunch time we were tired
and mentally exhausted,"; reported player Matt Bresette. But
the team rallied and made it into the "final four" semi-finals
of the fifteen teams competing in their division. In a close match,
the Bayfield team lost to a team that proceeded on to win the regional
Coach O'Neill reflects that the Bayfield
team members complimented each other nicely. In addition to each
player's good general foundation in science, students have individual
areas of expertise that combined to pull them in to the semi-finals.
I am really proud of their abilities. Team member Werchouski returned
home feeling especially accomplished. Werchouski was one of ten
participants to receive an "All Star Award" at the closing
The ten students, out of 120 total, who
correctly answered the most questions throughout the competition,
achieved "All Star" status.
The winners of the regional competition
in Colorado will proceed on to a national competition this spring
in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, the Bayfield team returned home in
high spirits with its sight set on a trophy for next year. The Native
American Science Bowl, sponsored by the Heritage Institute, was
first organized in 1992 to encourage Native American students from
across the nation to excel in math, science, engineering, technology,
and to pursue technical careers.