Quizbowl Champions

CSE Students for $100,000 please.

Q. This CEGE student is a teammate of Jeopardy!’s recent $100,000 winner.

A. Who is Blake Andert?

Blake Andert, BCE 2021, is a member and an officer of the University of Minnesota (UMN) Quizbowl Team. The team got some extra attention in April when one of the members, CSE student Nibir Sarma, won the $100,000 prize in the 2020 Jeopardy! College Championship.

Quizbowl is an academic competition similar to Jeopardy! It is where Sarma honed his talent for trivia. “It was very exciting to watch our teammate Nibir compete on Jeopardy!” Andert said, “Nibir is a class act and a positive influence to have around. His sense of humor breaks up the monotony of longer tournaments. I look forward to cheering him on in the Tournament of Champions!”

Andert’s appreciation of his teammate is not a shallow respect cultivated by Sarma’s recent fame. For Andert, and many of his team members, the most enriching aspects of quizbowl are interacting with knowledgeable, intelligent, driven peers, and learning from them about a wide variety of subjects. Says Andert, “Quizbowl has exposed me to a lot of knowledge that I otherwise would not have been aware of. Additionally, most of the people in quizbowl are incredibly sharp and witty. I enjoy these two aspects the most.”

The whole UMN team has had a tremendous season. Members come from all departments at the the U; currently Andert is the only representative from CEGE. Of the seven tournaments to which the UMN club sent teams, they brought home six wins. The teams were made up of current students and recent graduates, and the tournaments ranged from novice to collegiate in difficulty. The players on the four-person teams rotate, so Andert estimated those six winning teams reflect the efforts of 17 club members.

Andert got started with quizbowl in high school. His tenth-grade history teacher was also the school’s quizbowl coach and suggested Andert attend a practice. The attraction was immediate. “I played throughout the rest of my time at Burnsville High School [2014-2017] and sought out the University’s Quizbowl Club as a freshman.”

At UMN, Andert has played in four National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT) tournaments. In the NAQT North Sectional Tournament on February 8, 2020, his team took first place. That win qualified the members to go to the (unfortunately cancelled) 2020 Intercollegiate Championship Tournament.

Learn more about quizbowl and see Andert’s Player Stats from National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT.com).

The UMN team practices twice a week. Attendance is optional, and members participate as their schedules and homework levels permit. Andert’s special interest areas are history, geography, and current events. He says his engineering courses help him with the science questions. He has seen content from several courses (Soil Mechanics I, Water/Wastewater Treatment, Computer Applications, and Fluid Mechanics) appear in quiz bowl questions. He was able to answer many of those questions correctly; however, his preparation was not flawless.

One scientific principle, the Moody Friction Factor, was a topic in two of Andert’s classes, computer applications and fluid mechanics. However, he sheepishly admits, he incorrectly answered a question about friction—not just once, but two years in a row—by mentioning the Moody Friction Factor. (Oops!) Assuming that competitions are reopened for the 2020-2021 school year, Andert will be back to compete.

Q. In this academic-based competition, two teams of four compete to answer questions correctly and score the most points.

A. What is quizbowl?

Two separate organizations run national championship tournaments. The Academic Competition Federation (ACF) fields 48 teams. The National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT) competition is known as Intercollegiate Championship Tournament (ICT). UMN had qualified two teams for each tournament. The University of Minnesota was slated to host the ACF Nationals in April 2020. Andert was on one of the two teams UMN had qualified for that tournament. Unfortunately, the Corona virus caused its cancellation.

The quizbowl season starts in the fall with easier tournaments to introduce beginners to the game. National qualifying tournaments are typically played at the start of the spring semester, with the championships in April. Questions can be asked on any topic. “I remember a question at a nationals-level tournament about pineapple on pizza,” recalls Andert, “but a majority of questions tend to be on history, literature, science, and fine arts.” A quizbowl match typically consists of twenty tossups plus bonus questions.

Tossups are played individually. Players may not confer and “buzz in” individually when they know an answer. A tossup delivers clues in the form of a paragraph. The clues in the tossup start difficult and get easier throughout the duration of the question. Andert offered this example: a tossup at a fall tournament started with “Casagrande’s method can be used to calculate one of the Atterberg limits of this substance” and ended by saying “name this nutrient-rich mixture of organic matter and minerals that supports plant growth.” Take a guess! (See answer below.)

If a player answers a tossup incorrectly, the team loses five points and the chance to answer the rest of the question. If a player answers a tossup correctly, the team earns ten points plus the exclusive opportunity to answer a three-part bonus question.

Bonus questions allow teammates to confer. Each of the three parts is worth ten points, and all three parts are related to one other. As an example, Andert offered this bonus question: 1) Name one of two elements “whose removal is a key aspect of secondary and tertiary wastewater treatment,” 2) identify the process that is induced by nitrogen and phosphorus that causes algal blooms, and 3) identify the “ecological guardian of the coast” that is negatively affected by nitrogen loading. Take a guess! (See answers below.)

ANSWERS. Tossup = Soil; Bonus = 1) nitrogen or phosphorus, 2) eutrophication, and 3) salt marshes.

So, how did you do?