Two Princeton area teams headed to National Science Bowl

The West-Windsor Plainsboro South with their banner and trophy. Coach Sunila Sharma, Alex Krauel, Eric Liu, Tanishq Aggarwal, the team captain, Ajay Koritala, and Rishab Bhatt. Photo: Elle Starkman.

John Witherspoon Middle School and West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School both took first place in their divisions in the U.S. Department of Energy’s New Jersey Science Bowl recently and will compete in the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C. at the end of next month.

The West Windsor-Plainsboro South Science Bowl team won its third victory in a
row at the high school contest and was undefeated in 12 rounds of competition.Thirty-two teams from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware competed by answering challenging questions in timed rounds in science, technology and mathematics in a quiz-show type double elimination format.

The John Witherspoon Middle School team won the Middle School tournament. Sixteen teams from all over New Jersey competed in the middle school version of the game-show-style, double-elimination format contest.

West Windsor-Plainsboro will compete with 69 other high school teams and John Witherspoon Middle School will compete with 49 other middle school regional teams in Washington D.C.

About 50 scientists, engineers and staff members from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in Plainsboro volunteered for the two-day event as science moderators, judges, timekeepers and helpers. Many of the volunteers have been coming to the Science Bowl for years. Engineer Irving Zatz has been volunteering  for 20 years. “I’m always impressed by how well-prepared and how smart they are, how quick too,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been coming back for 20 years because it’s such a thrill.”

Deedee Ortiz, the program administrator for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s science education department, said it is great to see how excited kids are about science in the competition. “They are incredibly smart and if we can give them a chance to
see a national laboratory then maybe someday some of those kids will be here working
to make the world a better place,”  she said.

The John Witherspoon team members pose with their trophy and banner. (l-r) Aaron Wu, a Princeton High student assistant; team member Akshay Adaikalavan, Jasper Lee, Princeton High student assistant; team member Brian Zhang, the team captain; team member David Wang, John Yang, a Princeton High student assistant, team member Stephane Morel, Coach William Merritt, and team member Richard Qi. Photo: Elle Starkman.


  1. Bravo to the John Witherspoon Middle School students. It’s a great school that should be praised and lauded not demeaned or diminished by certain people with agendas.

    1. Kudos also to the West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School students for their accomplishments.

    2. No one – in all this back and forth – has suggested that JWMS does not have many exceptional students. Your initial comment – a sudden burst of candor – is agenda driven. Otherwise you wouldn’t have supplemented it with your second one.

      1. SOMEONE – in all this back and forth – did actually demean and debase the JWMS. SOMEONE took out a full page ad in the Town Topics calling JWMS a mess, a flop, and a failure. That someone said things were so bad that a school official should be fired. And this rant was based on a deeply flawed test that has been criticized nationally. Kids all over the country have opted out of this badly designed test. To my knowledge, no one has taken out a full page ad in a local paper bashing any West Windsor-Plainsboro schools. Thank you for micromanaging my comments.

        1. Well, we shall prove them wrong… our JWMS kids are awesome, talented, intelligent, and they are exceptional too!
          Congrats to both teams – JWMS and WWPS!!!

  2. Congratulations to both teams and their coaches. Especially proud of the JWMS team — go get ’em in DC!

  3. As with sports teams, it appears academic teams are equal opportunity / best person for the position. No quota’s or affirmative action. Just like #42 wanted – a fair shot for all! Go get ’em Princeton! . . . and West Windsor/Plainsboro too.

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