Sea science bowl embraces isles

By Helen Altonn

Hawaii high school science students next year will be able to participate in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl -- a program that has brought five New England students here on a prize-winning trip as the 2002 champions.

Sarah Schoedinger, education director for the Washington, D.C.-based Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education that runs the competition, said arrangements are being made to make Hawaii a regional site so island students can compete next year.

The program is designed to foster the next generation of marine scientists. An estimated 2,000 students representing 350 high schools competed in 22 regional competitions across the country this year to go to the final competition in Providence, R.I., in April.

Lexington High School in Massachusetts won the finals for the fifth consecutive year. The winning students, sophomores and juniors, were Monica Tse, Joseph Scarry, Ingrid Larson, Po-Chang Hsu and Tsung-Han Shen.

They arrived Tuesday night for a 10-day tour of ocean sites and facilities on the Big Island and Oahu with their coach, Doug Grant, and Schoedinger.

"Their eyes are falling out of their heads already and they just arrived last night," Grant said yesterday.

Although they had flown 11 hours and went to bed late, they were up at 5 a.m. to watch the sunrise from their balcony, he said.

Grant, assistant coach for the team the first three years and head coach the past two years, said his team didn't know until the national finals that the award was a 10-day trip to Hawaii.

"On my teachers' salary, Hawaii is a long dream," Grant said.

Students are tested in the competition on their knowledge of ocean sciences and "we have a very, very strong academic school to build from," Grant said.

He said his team practices two to three hours after school on Fridays. The program began with five or six students five years ago and has grown to 40 trying out this year, he said.

He said the consortium tries to offer trips to the bowl winners that are connected with science and "not just a touristy thing."

Sponsoring their Hawaii adventure are DolphinQuest, Waikoloa Village, the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Office of Naval Research and University of Hawaii.

The students are participating in a special dolphin trainer apprentice program in Kona arranged by DolphinQuest to provide hands-on experience with animal training, veterinary procedures and laboratory work.

Also while on the Big Island, they will go to Mauna Kea to look through the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, visit Kawaihae Harbor to observe sea turtles and hike through the Kilauea Caldera at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

On Oahu, they'll visit the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at Coconut Island in Kaneohe and tour the Navy's facilities at Pearl Harbor, as well as the USS Bowfin, USS Arizona and USS Missouri.

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