A group of Santa Monica Santa Monica High School students won the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) at Oregon State University this past weekend.
The local students were among the top 25 teams nationwide and each had to first win their regional competition. According to event organizers, 392 teams made up of 1,960 students representing 33 states participated this year.
Students on Santa Monica’s first national championship team include Amy Amatya, Nanki Chung, Rhys Gaida, Ryu Akiba, and Josh Sheng. They are coached by Ingo Gaida, father of one of the students and a science teacher at Samohi.
“Students were tested on their knowledge of ocean-related topics, which include cross-disciplines of biology, chemistry, policy, physics, and geology by answering buzzer-style, multiple choice questions, and longer, critical thinking-based team challenge questions,” said Ingo Gaida. “They also participated in the Science Expert Briefing, a mock congressional hearing where they presented science recommendations on a piece of legislation, enhancing their critical thinking skills and building a better understanding of the broader context of science.”
Rhys Gaida said the buzzer rounds were challenging but also rewarding.
“The most challenging aspect at the competition is being confident enough to buzz in with speed, and knowing when to buzz immediately and when to be more cautious,” he said. “The most rewarding element of the competition was seeing all of my studying and practice pay off when I got a question right. I practiced and studied so much that I knew the answer to almost every marine geology questions that came up.”
The Washington, D.C. based Consortium for Ocean Leadership has organized the event for the past 20 years as part of their mission to inspire students to pursue careers in ocean science.
Team Captain Ryu Akiba said while ocean sciences are not his primary career goal, understanding the ocean has value beyond a job.
“I feel that promoting knowledge of the ocean is very important,” he said. “The ocean affects our everyday lives through climate, food, culture, it’s beauty. This is especially true in the coastal city of Santa Monica. Looking further outwards, the ocean affects policy, economy, and lives all over the world. By feeling the ocean’s connections to us and understanding that it needs to be protected, we can make more informed, conscious decisions in our daily lives and in our community.”
Rhys said he has had a lifelong interest in oceans and the competition is factoring into his plans. “Participating in National Ocean Sciences Bowl has made me realize the importance of our ocean, and I am now seriously considering majoring in Environmental Science or Marine Studies at UC Santa Cruz, the university I will be attending this fall,” he said.
According to event organizers, the first and second place teams received all-expenses paid trips to Georgia/South Carolina and New Jersey, respectively, to join local experts in conducting scientific research.
Other top teams won snorkel masks and gift cards.
In addition to the contest, the event provided an opportunity for hands-on science such as a beach cleanup with Surfrider Foundation, a tour of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Operations Center – Pacific, a trip aboard the OSU Research Vessel Pacific Storm, a clamming adventure with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and a tour of OSU’s OH Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory.
“This was an amazing way to celebrate our 20th anniversary,” said RADM Jon White, President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in a press release. “I’m extremely impressed by the knowledge, sportsmanship, and enthusiasm for ocean science displayed by all of the teams. I look forward to the next 20 years – both watching how the NOSB will grow and develop, as well as seeing the innovative accomplishments of today’s students, who are tomorrow’s leaders.”
Kristen Yarincik, NOSB Program Director, said she was inspired and hopeful for the future after the event.
“The students put in countless hours, on top of their regular school requirements, and we got to see that all come to fruition this weekend. But they aren’t the only ones putting in long hours,” she said. “We have hundreds of volunteers—including our hosts at OSU—who, combined, have dedicated thousands of hours as judges, moderators, question writers, timers, and scorers to make this event possible.”
Rhys Gaida, Nanki Chugh, Amy Amatya, Ryu Akiba (kneeling), and Josh Sheng.