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STEM Students
NETL’s Regional Science Bowls Inspire Next Generation of Scientists, Engineers

Toss-up question, mathematics: How many students nationwide compete in regional Science Bowls each year?

The correct answer is more than 9,000 high school students and 4,500 middle school students. Hundreds of those students compete at the West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania Regional Science Bowls, organized and co-hosted each year by NETL to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

These fast-paced, quiz-style events help middle and high school students expand their science and math knowledge, build teamwork skills, and learn how to excel under pressure as they compete for a spot in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl. Described as “a competition like no other,” more than 290,000 students have participated in the National Science Bowl throughout its nearly 30-year history.

NETL Director Brian J. Anderson, Ph.D., is among them. His first exposure to the Lab was as a Science Bowl participant at what was then known as the Morgantown Energy Technology Center, a predecessor to NETL.

“I can say firsthand the impact that these can have on young scientists,” Anderson said. “These engaging events encourage middle and high school students to excel in science and math and pursue STEM careers.”

NETL coordinates regional Science Bowl events as part of its STEM Education and Outreach program, which aims to inspire and train the next generation of scientists, researchers and engineers scientists who will one day work to boost the nation’s energy independence through technological solutions.

“We are so proud to host these events,” said Ken Mechling, coordinator of NETL’s regional Science Bowls. “It’s exciting to see the dedication these kids put into learning about science and math each year. We always receive great feedback from teachers, parents and students about how much they enjoyed the competition and can’t wait to come back.”

NETL encourages employees to get involved to give back to the Lab’s local communities and set a positive example for budding young STEM professionals. Many NETL employees, along with community members, contribute to the competitions by volunteering their time to serve as moderators, science judges and more. Dozens more coordinate scientific demonstrations and educational exhibits to offer an enriching educational experience even when participants are not competing. Without the time and dedication of NETL’s many volunteers, the Science Bowls would not be possible.  

“Science Bowl is a really great activity. I invite everyone at the middle school and high school level to come participate,” said Michael Buric, an electrical engineer at NETL who trains Science Bowl volunteers and serves as lead moderator. “The students have lots of fun. I get to have lots of fun helping the competition along. And hopefully everybody really learns a lot from that experience. I tell people it will help students become more competitive, it will help students learn about science, and it even tends to help students with test-taking skills.”

NETL partners with West Virginia University (WVU) to host the West Virginia Regional Science Bowl each February at WVU’s downtown Morgantown, West Virginia, campus. The Western Pennsylvania Regional Science Bowl — formerly the Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Science Bowl — follows in late February and early March at the Community College of Allegheny County’s south campus.

The winning middle and high school teams earn an all-expenses-paid trip to compete in the National Science Bowl, which will be held April 25-29 in Washington, D.C.

Click here to learn more about NETL’s regional Science Bowls and their impact.