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Quiz Bowl: Students vs. Faculty

October 21, 2009 at 2:11 pm
By Margaret Taylor '10

You know you’re at Carleton when the Academic Quiz Bowl team generates as much maize-and-blue excitement as the football team.  And they deserve it.  In 2007, Carleton won the undergraduate Quiz Bowl national championships.

This year, Quiz Bowl has just finished its within-school tournament, culminating in an exhibition round for the parents who came to visit on Parents’ Weekend.  The four top Quiz Bowl students squared off against four faculty members in a best-two-out-of-three tournament.

The four faculty (Chinese professor Mark Hansell, Theater and Dance Assistant Technical Director Allison Koster, Math/CS Professor Jeff Ondich, and Art History emeritus Lauren Soth) had their work cut out for them.  Quiz Bowl students are known for their trivia skills – they’ve won against the faculty in the student-faculty match for the past five years in a row.

Each Quiz Bowl game consists of 24 four rounds, which start off with Quiz Bowl coach Eric Hilleman asking a trivia question, known as a “tossup,” that either team may answer.  The team that answers it correctly gets 10 points.  Bonus points to those who answer correctly before Hilleman gets to a certain point in reading the question, but beware.  If you interrupt the question and answer wrong, you get docked 5 points.

The team that answers the tossup correctly then gets the opportunity to answer three bonus questions for 30 points each.  These questions are typically related to each other, but have nothing to do with the original tossup.

Quiz Bowl questions can be about anything and everything, ranging from calculus to medieval history to pop culture.  There’s something in there to challenge even the most liberally-artsed among us.  Here’s a sampler of some of the questions you might encounter in a typical Quiz Bowl game:

Q:  What object is formed by the set of all points equidistant from two points in space?
A:  An ellipsoid.

Q:  What collective name do these concertos take from a state in eastern Germany?
A:  The Brandenburg Concertos.

Q:  What song features the lyrics, “I get knocked down/ But I get up again/ You’re never going to keep me down?”
A:  “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba.

Q:  Greek brides offered them locks of hair.
A:  The Fates.

Q:  The Kjeldahl test gives the total amount of this element in a sample.
A:  Nitrogen.

On the first game of the tournament, the four faculty leapt ahead, so that after four questions they were leading by 150-0.  But the students caught up so that by halftime, that lead had shrunk to 220-205.  The teams remained neck and neck for the rest of the game, but the students wound up carrying it at the end 435-420.

The second game, the students opened up a commanding lead right from the start.  They showed all the parents in the audience who the real trivia experts are around here, winning the game (and therefore the tournament) 560-270.

Quick – can you find the arithmetic, geometric, and harmonic means of 3, 6, and 12?  That’s what the Quiz Bowl students did for the final bonus question of the game.

I was able to talk to some students on the team during one of the preliminary rounds earlier in the term.  Joel Dalenberg ’12 got into competitive trivia by joining a Geography Bowl in high school.  He wasn’t expecting to join Quiz Bowl in college, but this year his friends needed another person on their team.  He recalls they said, “You seem to know a lot about trivia and stuff.  Come join our team.”

Charlie Rosenthal ’13 has a different story.  He did Quiz Bowl all through high school.  “My mother sort of forced me to do it.”  Then when he started doing his college search, schools that had a Quiz Bowl team definitely received a bump in how likely he’d be to apply.  “Carleton didn’t really need that bump,” since it was already his first choice school, but it still had a top-notch team.  So now Charlie’s here as a freshman and he will most likely be answering trivia in Quiz Bowl tournaments for years to come.