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The mind is a wonderful thing for these students

The 2008 South Whidbey High School Knowledge Bowl state finalists will demonstrate their mental prowess at Camas High School this month. Back row: Dylan Fate, Zora Lugren, Ian Marsanyi, Grant Neubauer, Ben Snow  and Eric Zink. Front row: Philip Hofius, Sean Hough, Casey Fate and Nick Rovang. Not pictured are Sam Felt and Wyatt Jarvis. - Evan Derickson photo
The 2008 South Whidbey High School Knowledge Bowl state finalists will demonstrate their mental prowess at Camas High School this month. Back row: Dylan Fate, Zora Lugren, Ian Marsanyi, Grant Neubauer, Ben Snow and Eric Zink. Front row: Philip Hofius, Sean Hough, Casey Fate and Nick Rovang. Not pictured are Sam Felt and Wyatt Jarvis.
— image credit: Evan Derickson photo

LANGLEY — Remember the name of the Austrian physicist who measured the frequency of light waves?

How about the place where Thor Heyerdahl built his raft, Kon-Tiki?

Can you figure out the probability of certain numbers appearing when three dice are thrown, or explain Einstein’s interpretation of gravity? How about naming something easy, like the place in England where a laser is projected to mark the prime meridian?

There are some high school students on South Whidbey who know the answers. That, and more; much more.

They are the South Whidbey High School Knowledge Bowl teams, 12 young people headed to state finals in Camas on

March 24 to test themselves against the best and brightest in Washington’s annual interschool academic competition.

The regular season closed with the Falcons placing second overall out of 56 teams, which included much larger 3A and 4A schools.

“We have a great bunch of hard-working, focused kids,” Falcon science teacher and coach Greg Ballog said. “Their success is a positive reflection on the community and the effort all of the South Whidbey school system puts forth.”

Team names are based on word play. Pi is the mathematical symbol for the number 3.14 and ROFL is an acronym for Rolling On the Floor Laughing.

The piMPS team includes co-captains Ben Snow and Sean Hough, Zora Lungren, Philip Hofius, Ian Marsanyi and Grant Neubauer.

The ROFLcopterz include captain Dylan Fate, Eric Zink, Wyatt Jarvis, Sam Felt, Casey Fate and Nick Rovang.

The school originally fielded three teams of 18 students at the recent regional match-up in Blaine.

“Yeah, Blaine was an easy choice because it’s so centrally located,” Jarvis joked.

The day started with a written and oral exam. Based on their scores, teams were matched with other schools who are roughly at the same knowledge level.

Random questions were then asked from a variety of disciplines: history, science, grammar, English literature, current events, the classics and math.

“We had 15 seconds to answer after we buzzed in, but they let us know in advance if it’s a math question so we can have pencils ready,” Jarvis explained.

There are 50 questions for each of three rounds and the time goes by fast. After each round, teams are given a cumulative score which determines the next venue.

“The competition gets more fierce the higher you go,” Hough said.

Zink added that one of the hardest challenges is knowing when to buzz in with the answer.

Hofius said once he buzzed in, certain the examiner would want the name of the work. “But they asked for the author and I didn’t know it,” he said ruefully.

“Sometimes, a long question veers off course from what we expected,” Zink said.

“But it’s fun and exhilarating when you know the answer,” Hough added.

The students said there were plenty of reasons why they joined the school’s Knowledge Bowl teams.

“Well, it looks great on a resumé down the road,” Jarvis said.

Hough said it’s a good way to show off one’s mental abilities and Lungren added that it’s a great learning experience.

“And even if other kids don’t have a clue where South Whidbey is, they know the kids here are smart,” Jarvis added.

Perhaps the bottom line came from Zink.

“Being on the Knowledge Bowl team is a nice way to meet really cool people, the kind you want to hang out with,” he said.

In other words, the kind of person who knows of the scientist Christian Doppler, that dice will show the same number one in 36 times, that Heyerdahl built his raft in Peru, that gravity is a distortion of time and space and that the Royal Observatory in England is the source of the prime meridian.

Yup, those people.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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