WASHINGTON, D.C. — Defending champion Santa Monica High School finished fourth in the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C., and North Hollywood High finished in the top 16, it was announced Monday.

The 19th annual academic slugfest — held at the National Building Museum — was won by a team from Mira Loma High School in Sacramento. First prize is an all-expenses-paid science research trip to Australia.

For finishing in the top 16, the Santa Monica and North Hollywood teams earned $1,000 for the schools’ science departments. The North Hollywood team’s finishing place within the top 16 was not immediately clear.

“This is phenomenal,” said SMMUSD Superintendent Tim Cuneo. “We’re really proud of our students and their accomplishments. The real positive thing here is that they are focusing on the environment and taking small steps in improving Mother Earth.”

Cuneo said the school district is using science courses to teach students about the environment in which they live, with a focus on the Santa Monica Bay and the damaging effects of urban runoff and marine debris.

More than 500 students — from 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — competed in the weekend’s national finals. Those competitors survived regional science bowls involving more than 20,000 students.

DOE created the National Science Bowl in 1991 to encourage students to pursue careers in mathematics and science.

Students from Florence Nightingale Middle School in the Cypress Park section of Los Angeles competed in the event’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell Model Car Challenge over the weekend.

A featured event at the Science Bowl for middle school students, the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Model Car Challenge invites students to design, build and race model cars. This year’s winner was the team from St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Amarillo, Texas.

news@smdp.com

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