Science bowl a rush for South Middle

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When Great Neck South Middle School students Lynn Hlaing and William Ren face off against competing schools in this weekend’s National Science Bowl regional tournament, it will not just be their knowledge that is tested – they’ll also have to be quick on the buzzer.

“We’re used to doing science homework and stuff but we’re not used to that quick thinking,” said Ren.

He, Hlaing and the other eight students on the school’s two science bowl teams will board buses early Saturday morning to Brookhaven National Laboratory, where they will be their school’s first entrants into the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s National Science Bowl. Should they prevail against the competing regional schools, they will earn a trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national competition.

That prospect has students excited about the contest, which will test their knowledge on astronomy, biology, earth science, physics and mathematics, according to science teacher and team advisor Gail Keyes.

“You can hear the screaming now,” said Keyes in an interview at the middle school, with the voices of the boisterous science club clearly audible through the classroom door. “They’ve been begging me to have practices. It’s almost surreal.”

Great Neck has had success in the science bowl at the high school level, with Great Neck South winning the regional competition and participating in nationals in 2011. 

But though this will be the middle school’s first time participating in the competition, Keyes is guardedly optimistic about their chances.

“There’s a big of strategy – if you buzz in too early and get the wrong answer, you lose points,” Keyes said. “Some of the schools have been doing this for years and know the strategy. We’re coming in as a bit of an underdog.”

“The questions they can answer blow my mind,” Keyes added.

And if the team does well, it will be thanks in part to the efforts of members of the Great Neck South High School team, who visited the middle schoolers and helped them practice for the contest.

“They were wonderful,” Keyes said.

For their part, Hlaing and Ren are looking forward to the opportunity.

“I’ve always liked science and I’ve wanted to participate in more competitions,” Hlaing said.

“It’s definitely very fun,” added Ren. “The adrenaline pumps.”

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