Mira Loma students win fifth National Science Bowl title in seven years

For the fifth time in seven years, students from Mira Loma High School have won first place in the 2015 National Science Bowl run by the U.S. Department of Energy, an achievement that nets team members and their coach a nine-day, all-expenses-paid science trip to Alaska.

Coach James Hill, a chemistry teacher at the high school, said the students, all juniors and seniors, distinguished themselves by their total preparation in the subjects of biology, chemistry, physics, energy, Earth sciences and math.

“It’s quite impressive,” Hill said. “The students are really dedicated. They spend hours and hours. And since we’ve done so well (in prior years), they want to continue doing well.”

The Mira Loma students included senior and team captain Daniel Shen, 17; senior Arvind Sundararajan, 17; senior Roger Yu, 18; junior Jack Gurev, 16; and junior Claire Burch, 16. They were getting ready to board a plane to return to Sacramento just a few hours after the two-day competition ended Monday in Washington, D.C.

Mira Loma High School in Arden Arcade has long drawn many of the Sacramento region’s top students to its high-caliber International Baccalaureate program.

During a ceremony earlier in the day, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said students competing in the event, now in its 25th year, are among those “who will help sustain America’s scientific and technological competitiveness in the 21st century,” according to an announcement of the win.

About 9,000 high school students and 5,300 middle school students from the 50 states, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands participated in this year’s regional competitions.

In the high school competition, Mira Loma defeated students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., by correctly answering a question about a gene-editing technology developed by the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute.

The top two high school teams faced a field of 68 high school regional champions during the finals competitions.

In Alaska, the Mira Loma students will take day trips to learn about glaciology, marine and avian biology, geology and plate tectonics. They will explore the Copper River Delta, known for its prolific salmon runs, and visit old-growth hemlock and spruce while hiking in the Chugach National Forest, and visit Childs Glacier.

Mira Loma teams previously took first place in the national competition in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014. The winning students and Hill have previously visited Alaska and also won trips to Australia and France, Hill said.

Call The Bee’s Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaSacBee.