Des Moines Central Academy Wins $1,000 at National Science Bowl

Prize money recognizes team's "Sweet 16" appearance

For release: May 6, 2010

Steve Karsjen, Science Bowl Coordinator,515-294-5643


AMES, Iowa – The team of five high school students from Central Academy in Des Moines pocketed a check for $1,000 for their school’s science program by placing in the “Sweet 16” bracket of the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2010 National Science Bowl competition. DOE Secretary Steven Chu presented Central their check during the awards ceremony held following the competition’s championship match on Monday, May 3.

The DOE National Science Bowl, held in Washington, D.C. April 29 through May 3, pitted students from 68 different regional high school championship teams against one another in a fast-paced, quiz-bowl competition. The teams answered questions on topics ranging from chemistry to physics to math. Central Academy had a 5-1 record in their division bracket, but the team was later defeated in double-elimination play.

The Central Academy team consisted of seniors Kerrick Staley and Nicolas Swingle, juniors Joel Schneider and James Nassif, and sophomore Luchang Wang. The team was coached by Jeff Hepburn, who earlier this year was selected for the James Bryant Conant Award in High School Chemistry Teaching by the American Chemical Society.

Following their second loss, junior Joel Schneider remained upbeat about his team’s overall Science Bowl performance, “First year and I don’t think we did that bad. Maybe we’ll be back next year and take the whole thing.”

“We’re not incredibly happy about the results, but we’re definitely happy about the $1,000 for Central,” added sophomore Luchang Wang.

“Central’s science program can always put the $1,000 to good use,” said coach Jeff Hepburn.

The Central Academy team advanced to the National competition after winning the Regional Science Bowl sponsored by the DOE’s Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University and held in Ames in late January 2010. A few weeks later in March, the Central Academy middle school team won the Ames Lab/ISU Regional Middle Science Bowl competition, an unprecedented occurence in the history of the Regional competition.

Central’s middle school team also placed in the “Sweet 16” bracket at the 2010 National Science Bowl competition, but only those teams that went on to place in the “Elite Eight” were awarded $1,000 checks. The middle school team was comprised of Nicholas Parker, Michael Cummings, Maxwell Pilcher, Michael Shimp, Rachel Suen and coached by Joyce Johnson. There were 37 regional teams participating in the National Middle School Science Bowl.

“These students are motivated and worked hard for what they achieved,” said coach Joyce Johnson. “They made it into the top 16 and that’s quite an honor.”

The Central Academy middle school team also competed in the Solar Car Competition at the National Science Bowl. Although their car did not make it into the double elimination bracket, it did post a best time of 17.379 seconds on the 80 foot race track.

“We did make it across the Finish Line and that’s a big deal,” said team member Michael Shimp. “Our car is going in our trophy case to be enjoyed by generations many years after us,” added Michael Cummings.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu presents Ames Laboratory's Steve Karsjen with the National Science Bowl 20-year award
20-year National Science Bowl award

In other news at the National Science Bowl awards ceremony, the Ames Laboratory received an award recognizing it for being an inaugural member of the DOE's Science Bowl competition, having held a Science Bowl Regional competition for all 20 years of the event’s existence. This award was also presented by DOE Secretary Chu. Accepting for the Lab was Steve Karsjen, Ames Lab Science Bowl Coordinator.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory operated for the DOE by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global challenges.