The competition, like so many other things, was affected by COVID-19.
“The unique thing was that we did not go head-to-head with another team. We did it online — virtually,” said Wynne, who teaches biology at the school, in addition to chairing the science department and coaching the academic team. “They asked every team in a separate Zoom meeting the same 18 questions (each with the possibility of a bonus question if answered correctly) and whoever got the highest score would win.”
The absence of direct competition added an air of uncertainty to the proceedings.
“When we kept going, we felt like we were struggling because it was so different and the questions were quite difficult this year,” Wynne said. “If you looked at the scores of the rounds this year compared to past years, they were pretty low. The kids thought they weren’t doing very well so it kept surprising them that they were advancing, but it was difficult for everyone.”
This was added to by the fact that the whole team couldn’t be in the same room. Three students would be in one with two students in another and Wynne in a separate third room during the contest.
None of these difficulties reduced Wynne’s students’ efforts though.
“I’m so proud of the Tilghman team, both as competitors and as people,” she said. “We are so appreciative to DOE for coordinating the event as a virtual event this year, which allowed us to compete. We would not have been able to do so otherwise.”
Calloway County High School took second in the regional competition and McCracken County High School took third. Ballard Memorial High School, Marshall County High School, Union County High School and Madisonville North Hopkins High School also competed.
Jennifer Woodard, Paducah Site Lead of DOE’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office, is always happy to see this event come to pass.
“This virtual competition prepares our students to become the future scientists and leaders of tomorrow,” she said in a DOE news release. “Students competing at the national event will be challenged by some of the brightest students in the country. We are excited that they have this opportunity.”
The National Science Bowl Finals — set to start in late April — normally take place in Washington, D.C. The top 16 high school and middle school teams in the NSB finals will receive $1,000 for their schools’ science departments. Wynne has her students mentally ready for something closer to home.
“The students are pretty excited,” Wynne said. “They wish they were getting to go to D.C. My sense is that that’s probably not going to happen … my sense is that it’s going to be virtual and we’ll probably be competing from our classroom again.”