Edison Computech wins seventh regional Science Bowl championship

The Fresno BeeFebruary 15, 2014 

A Science Bowl competition held Saturday at Fresno State, described by one parent as a kind of "Jeopardy for kids," ended with a team from Edison Computech Middle School sweeping the regional championship for the seventh straight year.

"It's very enlightening -- I don't know most of the answers," mother Rene Polanco said with a laugh. Her 12-year-old daughter was on another Edison team. "It's really surprising how much these kids have learned and are learning in an array of subjects ... They are totally blowing me away."

Matches between 16 central San Joaquin Valley middle school teams ended with a close final between the reigning champs from southwest Fresno and Granite Ridge Intermediate, part of Clovis Unified School District.

The winning Edison Computech team will advance to the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C., from April 24-28 -- an all expense-paid trip, courtesy of the Department of Energy. Saturday's regional competition was hosted by the Fresno chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

The secret to Edison's sweeping success?

"We work together well and we have our coach, she really helps us," said team member Neilabjo Maitra, 13. "She brings in guest lecturers and makes us study, so it all pays off."

The team may have some advantages in getting good guidance. Their science teacher coach, Lisa Poole, is married to a geologist who teaches at Fresno City College, and Neilabjo's parents are both chemistry professors at Fresno State.

The winning team members are Gabriel Camarillo, 12, Ranpreet Gill, 14, Neilabjo, 13, Evan Solis, 13, and JJ Sutton, 14.

Someday, they hope to have these careers: Ranpreet (lawyer), Neilabjo (astrophysicist) and Evan (aerospace engineer). JJ said he's interested in politics and science, and Gabriel showcased his humor -- "I don't want to be a Science Bowl volunteer."

Poole said this year's competition was "particularly difficult," with most questions high school level or above.

And Saturday's judging was strict. The winning Edison team was told they answered one question incorrectly when they said "ionic bond." The correct answer: "Forming an ionic bond."

Luckily, Poole's team has been training hard.

"I try to provide them with college-level texts and these guys are very sharp," Poole said. "I don't mean to describe them as little sponges, but whatever you feed them they will learn. If I can just get the information to them, they are very good at picking it up."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, cgeorge@fresnobee.com or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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