Teams of Kids From Probation Facilities Compete in Academic Bowl

The California Science Center in LA's Exposition Park hosted an intense academic competition Friday. Four teams of high school age students went at it, and KPCC's Brian Watt was there keeping score.

Brian Watt: This year's Academic Bowl focused on the science of the human body. (bell dings) It started with a Jeopardy-style Power Quiz.

Moderator: This is another name for an eardrum.
Man: Team three.
Team three member: What is the tympanic membrane? (people cheer)

Watt: What distinguished the atmosphere at this contest was the presence of armed probation officers. The competitors attend four of the L.A. County Office of Education's Juvenile Court and Community Schools.

The team from the Kilpatrick Camp in Malibu dominated the Power Quiz, until a late surge by the guys from the Challenger Youth Center in Lancaster. The last answer would tie the score. A member of the Challenger team named "Michael" hesitated, then took a shot at the question.

Michael: What is insulin and glycogen? (people cheer)

Watt: "Michael" stared calmly at the cheering crowd like a basketball player who knew his three point shot was sure to go in.

Michael: What else do I got to lose? It's a lose or win situation. I'm a lose or I'm a win. So I chose to win.

Watt: Michael admitted he'd shown no interest in science, or in school, before this Academic Bowl.

Michael: I was interested in a lot of crime, I'm not gonna lie. But I've changed. I've been locked up for like a year. Jail and camp has changed my outlook on everything, and made me see what's right and what's wrong.

Judy Warner: Michael has grown a lot from the very beginning 'til now. He had a difficult time paying attention but now all of the sudden, he came to the top, like rising cream.

Watt: Teacher Judy Warner coordinates the Academic Bowl program at the Challenger Youth Center.

Warner: And he realizes that his opinion and his ideas are actually important, and they matter.

Watt: The crowd got a taste of Michael's newfound conviction during the rebuttal phase of the debate competition, when he argued in favor of advancing reproductive cloning.

Michael: First of all, semantic cell transfer has nothing to do with reproductive cloning. Semantic cell transfer actually involves therapeutic cloning, which is a totally different subject. Before you debate, get your stuff right! (audience laughs)

Watt: In the end, the team from Kilpatrick proved too tough for Michael and his Challenger team-mates. Kilpatrick took first place. Challenger placed second. But Michael's got a lot to look forward to. He turned 18 last week and just completed his high school equivalency degree. Now he's aiming for college, where he plans to study real estate... and science.

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