Cooperation, hard work and a love of learning propelled four teams from Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne to the state finals of the Indiana Academic Super Bowl competition this spring.
“This is our first year ever to have four teams in the state finals,” said Alicia Baumgartner, a Bishop Luers chemistry teacher who served as the school’s Academic Super Bowl program moderator and a science team coach. Bishop Luers, which has a long history of success in Academic Super Bowl, had a previous best of two teams reaching the state championships.
The state finals May 10 crowned champions in each of six categories: English, Science, Fine Arts, Social Studies, Math and Interdisciplinary. The latter category includes questions involving all five other categories.
Bishop Luers finished second in the Fine Arts, Social Studies and Interdisciplinary subject categories and seventh in English.
The Knights competed in Class 3 of the high school division for schools with enrollment of 356 to 611 students. The four Bishop Luers teams in the state finals each earned their way there by scoring among the top several teams in their subject category during an area competition April 20 involving more than 60 schools.
Bishop Luers was the only high school from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend competing in the Academic Super Bowl state finals.
“Our students definitely pushed each other,” Baumgartner said of this year’s team. “These kids are the ones doing the research and teaching each other.”
“We all just worked really well together,” said junior Stella Baker, who competed with teams in the English and Fine Arts subject areas. Many students have been on the same teams for a few years, which also helped, Baker said.
An extracurricular activity, Academic Super Bowl challenges students to develop research skills beyond what they typically use during classroom work, the Indiana Association of School Principals said on its website, iasp.org. The association works with Purdue University in West Lafayette to organize the program.
During competition in each subject category, team members must answer 25 multiple-choice questions related to the year’s research theme, which changes annually, Academic Super Bowl rules said. This year’s theme was “The American Woman: A Generation of Progress — 1920-2020.”
“It was pretty interesting to see how many struggles women have had to come against,” said Bishop Luers junior Catherine Bougher, who competed on the English category team.
Team members — four for the Interdisciplinary category and three for each of the other subject areas — work together to answer questions, the rules said. Each team must respond to most questions within 20 seconds. Question writers can give them 40 seconds to answer in some cases, such as when the question takes a long time to read or the answer involves many math calculations.
Normally, area competitions and the state finals at Purdue take place in person. This year, all competitions took place online to keep participants safe from the coronavirus.
Bishop Luers’ team included 35 students, Baumgartner said.
Some of the school’s subject category teams began meeting in September and others started in October, said Baumgartner and Kathy Schall, head of Bishop Luers’ English department and co-coach of the English subject team with fellow English teacher Kate Sturm.
Initially, each team met about an hour a week with its coach or coaches, and team members researched their subject area on their own time, Baumgartner said. Closer to the spring competition season, teams spent about two hours a week working on their research, said senior Grace Bryant, who competed on the Fine Arts and Interdisciplinary teams.
Older students share information with each other and help prepare freshmen and sophomores for questions about topics they haven’t studied yet in their classes, according to Baumgartner.
“I really like the people who do it,” Baker said.
“You really get to know each other,” Bougher added, saying they get to eat good food and talk about “weird things” that interest them.
Schall said she believes that over the years, Bishop Luers’ Academic Super Bowl teams have benefited from dedicated coaches. The program also receives strong support from the student body and school staff.
“It is important to have recognition for clubs that are achieving great things,” she noted.
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