MSMS hosts annual Miss. Regional Middle School Science Bowl


Caleb Youngblood

Students from Starkville and Ocean Springs middle schools battle it out in the last round of the Middle School Science Bowl, held Feb. 4 at MSMS. Ocean Springs, the eventual winner, will represent Mississippi in April’s National Science Bowl Competition in Washington, D.C.

Iris Xue, Staff Writer

MSMS hosted the annual Mississippi Regional Middle School Science Bowl Tournament, the first in-person regional tournament since 2020, on Feb. 4. Eleven science bowl teams representing seven middle schools faced off in fast-paced rounds before Ocean Springs Team Three won the championship. 

The competition, sponsored by the United States Department of Energy, began at 8 a.m. The round robin portion of the tournament divided the 11 teams into three competition rooms on Hooper Academic Building’s second floor. In each round, two teams of four students each competed to answer a variety of questions ranging in difficulty and spanning a multitude of subjects, including chemistry, biology, physics, earth and space science and mathematics.  

Each round lasted 18 minutes, with two eight-minute question-answering bursts and a two-minute break in between. MSMS science instructors and alumni served as round moderators, reading 4-point toss-up questions for students to buzz in to answer. If they answered correctly, their team received a 10-point bonus question. After the round robin portion, the top teams in each division advanced to the final bracket of eight teams. 

Many MSMS students volunteered throughout the competition, serving as timekeepers, scorekeepers, room managers and runners. Junior Ean Choi, a member of the MSMS National Science Bowl Competitive Team, served as a timekeeper and said he volunteered to help students enjoy an opportunity he didn’t get to experience in middle school. 

“I thought it would be great to help younger kids to participate in such a great competition,” Choi said. “I never had the chance to compete in Science Bowl as a middle schooler, so to be able to help make it possible for others was big for me. I thoroughly enjoyed my job [as timekeeper] because I was in the room where the round was happening.” 

Junior Jules Gallo also volunteered for the event and served as a room manager. 

“I watched the room, trying to catch teams and spectators cheating,” Gallo said. “I really enjoyed it because I got to make sure teams had no distractions, and I liked the fact I had the power to stop time and tell spectators off for talking.” 

After lunch and tiebreakers for the last two spots on the final bracket, eight teams competed in elimination rounds until Ocean Springs Team Three and Starkville Academy Team One faced each other in the finals. MSMS Executive Director Donald Cook and English instructor Theo Hummer judged and moderated the round, respectively. Ocean Springs took an early lead in the first half of the round and maintained its advantage throughout the second half to win first place in the tournament.  

After the final round, NSB Regional Coordinator and MSMS chemistry instructor Elizabeth Morgan presented trophies and thanked everyone who participated in the event, including students, parents, coaches and volunteers. Morgan, serving her third year as regional coordinator, said all the students should be very proud of themselves, especially considering the difficulty of the competition. 

“I think the questions have gotten tougher over the years, but I think [this] is related to the push for improved STEM education across the country,” Morgan said. “I think those tough questions really give students an opportunity to show off their knowledge and skills.” 

Morgan said planning the regional competition began in July, when successful host sites are invited by the DOE to apply to host again. The fall semester was devoted to contacting schools and recruiting teams. After attending coordinator meetings throughout the fall, Morgan said the weeks before the tournament were the busiest, with her efforts culminating the evening before the competition, when student volunteers set up rooms and practiced their roles. 

“The weeks leading up to the competition are busy with building volunteer teams, planning brackets, checking materials, coordinating schedules and all the behind-the-scenes work,” Morgan said. “In the week leading up to the competition, pretty much all of my time was occupied with middle school science bowl.” 

Choi said Morgan’s planning ultimately made the event a success, also adding it’s essential for MSMS to stay active in science outreach. 

“Although it is a very small school, it’s important for MSMS to be an active part of the Mississippi community around it,” Choi said. “To be holding an event such as this … we are creating a better space for education for kids. I would love to see Science Bowl be more widespread and for the mission to learn expanded even further.” 

Morgan agreed and said NSB is an important outreach opportunity to introduce MSMS to middle schoolers. She said she hopes MSMS can recruit more teams and schools for next year’s event. 

“My favorite part of NSB is getting to invite middle school students to our campus. Lots of the students end up applying to MSMS,” Morgan said. “We used to host around 30 teams each year, and I hope we can get back to those numbers of participating teams and schools.”  

Ocean Springs Middle School Team Three will represent Mississippi in the National Science Bowl Competition in Washington, D.C. in April.