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Science Hill’s Scholars’ Bowl Academic Club tests students' trivia knowledge

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Dec 6, 2017 at 7:04 PM

Science Hill High School’s Scholars’ Bowl Academic Club finished strong in Knoxville’s PBS Scholars’ Bowl Competition in November, making it to the “Fortuitous Final Four” before losing to Oak Ridge in the annual trivia competition.

Though they didn’t take first place at the regional tournament, the team had one of its best years, according to co-sponsor Michael Laviano, who teaches social studies courses at Science Hill.

“It was as close as we’ve ever got. We have a fantastic team with some really, really brilliant seniors and some smart up-and-comers, so I feel good that in the years to come, we will give them a run for their money again,” he said. “I’m very proud of them and all of the hard work they’ve put into getting this far this year.”

As they continue to study for next year’s competition, many of the students have been getting better at “thinking on their feet,” as well as applying the knowledge they already have in categories such as science, math, art, history, civics, current events and literature, just to name a few.

Laviano said the students have been competing against “powerhouse schools,” and with such stiff competition, reaction time — as well as knowing the material — is essential to making it far in a trivia tournament.

“Not only do the students have to be well-versed in the widest variety of topics and subtopics, they have to have the initiative to do research on their own to effectively compete. Not only do they need to have this knowledge, but there is a skill of applying that knowledge quickly enough to buzz in during the competition,” Laviano said. “That is a whole separate skill we practice — buzzing in at lightning speeds. Sometimes, it’s a matter of a tenth of a second.”

Clay Wheeler, one of the captains on the student team along with his sister, Sunny, said students have to study and research topics well enough to be able to pounce on each question, which is a skill he and others in the club continue to improve.

“You have to know the stuff in-depth to recall it and have that fast reaction time,” Clay said. “It really makes most of the difference because, a lot of times, several members of both teams will know the answer, so you have to have that depth of knowledge.”

Learning from each other is an important part of the trivia team’s camaraderie. Each one has their own unique interests and areas of expertise.

“When we do have practice or just talk to each other, we share as much knowledge as we can and share resources — good websites and stuff like that,” Clay said.

Sunny Wheeler said she is looking forward to the next tournament as the team continues to practice after school.

“I like a good competition,” she said.

Co-sponsor Dr. Tom Bier said he’s been impressed with the knowledge of the students on the team, and sometimes, they help refresh his knowledge on certain subjects.

“It’s really helping me out to be able to watch them and review all of these things from life that I’ve learned and can’t recall very fast,” he said. “I’ve been totally impressed with how fast an 18- or 15-year-old can recall it with the limited life experience they have.” 

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