CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Oct. 18, 2019) -- Zama Middle High School students competed against students from six other schools in Japan in the Brain Bowl, an academic quiz competition, Oct. 10 at the Camp Zama Community Club.

The Brain Bowl, which the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools, or KPASS, organizes every year, tests the students' knowledge of broad-based subjects with rapid-fire trivia questions on topics that include mathematics, geography, current events and literature.

ZMHS Brain Bowl team sponsor Guy Snyder, also a teacher at the school, said the event is valuable because it gives the academically inclined students an "avenue to compete and to show their skills."

Another benefit of the competition is that it brings together students from both Department of Defense Dependents Schools and international schools in Japan, Snyder said. With participants from Japan, the United States, Korea, India, Taiwan, Russia, China, Singapore, Australia, France and Spain, the Brain Bowl "truly is an international event," Snyder said.

In each two-part round, two teams of four students each faced off against each other. They sat in a line at two tables, armed only with their wits and a game show-like buzzer in their hand. They were allowed a pencil and paper for math-based questions. The moderator then asked 10 questions worth 10 points apiece, with a correct answer on the final question affording the respective team the chance to answer a bonus question worth five points.

The questions tested not only the students' grasp of trivia-based knowledge, but also presented stumpers like the following, which required an understanding of both physics and mathematics: "A pendulum swings with an amplitude of 25 centimeters and a period of two seconds. What is the approximate distance, in meters, traveled by the pendulum in six seconds?" Neither team knew the correct answer -- three meters.

ZMHS senior and team captain Baylee Dorsey, 17, a third-year Brain Bowl participant, said she and her teammates began preparing for the competition at the beginning of the school year, but at the same time admitted there really is no structured way to do so.

"We've had a lot of practices, and it's a lot of trivia," Dorsey said. "[But] you don't know what they're going to ask, and there's nothing to study--there's no book, no guideline."

Her team struggled in their first round, Dorsey said, but everyone got more comfortable as the day went on. The team tried to follow a general strategy of waiting until the question was read in full before buzzing in to answer, or--because incorrect answers were not penalized--taking a guess, which worked for Dorsey in at least on instance.

"We have a lot of very well-rounded people who have their strong suits; it's very balanced," Dorsey said. "[My strong suit is] generally science, but I've been getting literature questions correct, so I think all of us here are pretty ... well-versed in all the different subject areas."

Snyder said he teaches, or has taught, most of the students on the team and takes pride in seeing them be so enthusiastic about an event like the Brain Bowl. Since he became the team sponsor, Snyder said he has never had to seek out or recruit students to fill the roster.

"All of our students are here because they want to be," Snyder said. "I enjoy watching them compete and grow and learn."

St. Mary's International School, located in the Setagaya ward of Tokyo, won the Brain Bowl with a score of 445 points. ZMHS finished last out of the seven teams, but Alexander Ala, the team's only sophomore member, was named sixth overall out of the event's 10 "all-stars," the top 10 competitors with the highest individual scores.

Win or lose, Dorsey said she and the rest of her team enjoyed the event, both for the challenge and for the opportunity to spend the day testing their academic knowledge.

"It's just a fun experience," Dorsey said. "A lot of the other teams take it so seriously. Of course it's serious, but you have to enjoy it when you're doing it, and I think that's what we try to do."