Gilpin students debut at Science Bowl

Barbara Lawlor, Gilpin County.  Last month, five Gilpin High School students and five Gilpin Middle School students competed in the 2017 Colorado Science Bowl.

It was the first time that students from Gilpin schools entered the national competition and last week, the two Eagle teams proudly wore their Bowl t-shirts and talked about their experience.

With the nation’s focus on energy independence and sustainability, the event is sponsored by the Department of Energy and hosted by the Western Area Power Administration. Middle school students representing 16 schools from across Colorado tested their knowledge of science and vied for first place and a free trip to the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C., held April 27 – May 1.

The Science Bowl encourages student involvement in math and science and leads to expanded career options in science and technology. It also provides an opportunity for academic science achievement.

Other Colorado Middle Schools participating in the event included:
Excel Academy Charter School,
Gilpin County Middle School,
Kinard Core Knowledge Middle School, Lesher Middle School,
Liberty Common Charter School,
PSD Global Academy, Ridgeview Classical Charter School,
Severance Middle School
Southern Hills middle School, STEM Middle and High School,
Strive Prep-Sunnyside,
University School,
Webber Middle School,
Windsor Middle School, and the
Woodrow Wilson Charter Academy.

The competition consisted of a fast-paced quiz format that challenged the students’ knowledge of biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, energy and math.

The Department of Energy created the National Science Bowl in 1991 to encourage students to excel in math and science and to pursue careers in these fields. About 265,000 students have participated in the National Science Bowl throughout its 26-year history, and it is one of the nation’s largest science competitions.

The inspiration for entering the contest came when Gilpin resident and parent Jim Larsen approached science teacher Heather Newman about the competition. Larsen, a member of the Gilpin County Education Foundation says he tried to get the school involved for years, when his son was in high school. Larsen is employed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Newman, who has taught four years at Gilpin, jumped on the idea. “This was a great year to start,” she says. “We got the teams together after the winter break.  It was so fun. The kids wanted to practice all the time.”


The high school competition took place at Dakota Ridge High School in Littleton. Newman says their goal was to try the contest, have fun and see what it’s all about. Other competing high schools included Niwot, Fossil Ridge, Rocky Mountain Lutheran, Valley Christian and Cheyenne Mountain.

The questions were asked and the students vied to answer it first. A four-point toss-up question was thrown out first. If a member of the team answered it correctly, the team was given a 10-point bonus question.

Many of the teams consisted of students who specialize in one subject, but the Gilpin kids weren’t specialized yet…they admitted they sometimes were guessing at the answers. Although the questions were on the Bowl website, the Eagles, being new, hadn’t developed a study strategy, but will bring their experience to next year’s competition.

Newman says, “I was so proud of them. They did great, winning two of five matches, which far exceeded my expectation.”

Fossil Ridge High School won the trophy and will be going on to Washington, D.C.

The Gilpin High School team consisted of Chad Holmes, Cooper Lindberg, Anna Yocom, Juan Madrigal and Blaizun Diamond, all of them sophomores, who anticipate competing again next year.

The Middle School students included Shane Wu, Sasha Sonsino, Damien Sonsino, Drake Hylton and Gabriel Bergeson, all of them except for Sasha are eighth graders who plan to keep the team intact next year when they are in high school. Sasha, who is in sixth grade, said she was an alternate so didn’t get to answer questions, but she will be the middle level student with experience next year.

Sasha says, “I like science, especially looking in a microscope and getting to see what’s there.”

Gabriel Bergeson said he had a good coach for the competition, his mom being the science teacher. An example of a typical question is “What form of radiation is emitted by nuclear gamma reaction?”

Newman says she hopes to rebuild the middle level team next year and create two teams. “I want to incorporate as many kids as possible. The best part of joining the bowl was being around a bunch of students who are excited by what I like.”

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.