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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 23, 2002 - Issue 57


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Bayfield H.S. Team Competes in Native American Quiz Bowl

by Jill O'Neill The Duluth Daily Press
RobotImagine having five seconds to answer the following question: What is the shape of a molecule that has four identical pairs of electrons in hybrid orbitals?

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 that."

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 and concentrate."

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 the question.

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 challenging."

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 championship.

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 ceremony.

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.

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