Originally created 04/23/98

Bowl tests scientific knowledge



The shoulders, not the faces, best tell you how teams fared at the annual Richmond County Middle School Science Bowl.

Throughout the day, shoulders slumped, collapsed or just shrugged. Then they broadened, straightened up or squared. Sometimes, they did both within the span of seconds, as Nancy Allen's did at about 3:35 p.m. Wednesday.

"We're going to win," Nancy, an eighth-grader at Tutt Middle School and a defending science bowl champion, predicted earlier in the day. She was one question away from fulfilling that prophecy, but her ramrod-straight shoulders slumped as Ricky McPherson of Sego Middle School broke a 45-45 tie.

Ricky buzzed in correctly that granite is a stone that will weather the slowest of the choices given and, just like that, every shoulder under a yellow Sego T-shirt celebrated its win. Sego's John Moore was named most valuable player of the tournament a short while later.

"We are the champions," several Sego students sang as their teacher, Darlene Belton, pumped her fists with glee. Sego won the title on a second tiebreaker question, making this year's contest one of the closest ever.

"What an exciting round," understated Joe Moore, science coordinator for the school system.

John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School's team finished third, and Glenn Hills Middle School was fourth.

New to the science bowl this year were volunteers from Savannah River Site, who spent the day reading quiz questions and keeping score as the 10 middle schools participating went through six rounds to determine the champions.

"It makes me feel like, what is it -- Jeopardy?" said Teresa Jennings, a senior financial analyst at SRS who volunteered.

As on the game shows, the equipment sometimes played havoc with the contestants, with buzzers not sounding properly or lighted panels refusing to go dark again quickly. This was the first time the science bowl used anything more than raised hands as a signal to answer the question.

But don't think the adults' shoulders didn't shrug during the day, too. Several times, the SRS workers admitted they were perplexed by questions like how to measure the speed of sound in air that's 4 degrees Celsius. (The answer is 332 meters per second, by the way.)

"If you are not fresh with this, surely the questions are going to be challenging," Ms. Jennings said.

But for most, Wednesday's competition was a chance to relax shoulders usually hunkered over assignments in classrooms. Even on the super-competitive Tutt team, there was an ease to the day.

"I'm just going to sit here and look cute," joked Sheena Gay, a sixth-grader making her first appearance on Tutt's team.