Yeti Crabs gain national competition experience

Cordova’s science bowl team has a wealth of stories to tell

From left, Lauren Bien, Reid Williams, John Williams, MiKita DeCook, Cori Pegau and Marie Esguerra, make their way to Boulder, CO on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 for the 21st National Ocean Science Bowl. The Cordova High School team, 'Yeti Crabs', won the Alaska Tsunami Ocean Sciences Bowl in early February after beating 21 other high school teams from throughout Alaska.

The Yeti Crabs are back from the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, no titles in hand, but with a wealth of stories to tell, new friends and experiences under their belts.

Their long, exciting journey from Cordova to Boulder, CO, began on Wednesday, April 18, in the wake of beating 21 other high school teams from throughout Alaska in early February to win the Alaska Tsunami Ocean Sciences Bowl.

On top of the Tsunami Bowl win, the Yeti Crabs also won best paper and best overall project for their work on “The Impact of Extreme Snow Events on Alaska.”

From left, Marie Jamille Esguerra, MiKita DeCook, Cori Pegau, Reid Williams, John Williams and Lauren Bien arrived in Boulder, CO on Friday, April 20, 2018 for the National Ocean Science Bowl competition.

Alaska is the only regional bowl that requires teams to submit a project, something that didn’t sink in until they arrived for the national competition in Boulder explained Lauren Bien, Prince William Sound Science Center’s science education coordinator and coach.

Members of the Yeti Crabs include, seniors Cori Pegau and Marie Esguerra, junior Reid Williams and sophomore MiKita DeCook.

They practiced roughly twice a week leading up to the competition and even on the airplane during their 2,200-mile journey. “I looked over at one point and they were reading an oceanography text book,” Bien said.

Out of the 351 teams who competed in the regional science bowls, only 23 teams continued on to nationals.

Cori Pegau, left, Marie Jamille Esguerra, center, and MiKita DeCook, right, explore a C-130, outfitted for atmospheric research, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO on Friday, April 20, 2018.

“It was neat to be a new rookie team that had earned their spot there… no Cordova team has ever made it to nationals before,” Bien said. “(We) really wanted to represent Cordova well and Alaska.”

The Yeti Crabs faced fierce competitors during the mock congressional hearings and buzzer-style competition.

The students had about one month to prepare, study and practice their Science Expert Briefing. Students took the role of stakeholders and gave recommendations on a piece of legislation in written and oral testimonies. The oral testimonies were presented to a panel of judges acting as “members of congress” on Saturday, April 21 during the competition.

There were five categories: Federal Agency, State Agency, Academia, Non-Governmental Organization and Industry.

Since the Yeti Crabs were a team of four, Cori Pegau played the role of both the Federal and State Agency. MiKita DeCook presented Academia, Marie Esguerra presented NGO and Reid Williams presented Industry.

“The level of competition…we were up against a lot of schools who have been making it to nationals for 10, 12, 15 years,” Bien said.

Arriving in Boulder, they started their long weekend with an educational field trip

They explored the National Center for Atmospheric Research, toured the research aviation facility and military planes that have been outfitted for atmospheric research, hiked in the Flatirons and took a tour of the University of Colorado Boulder.

Bien said the field trip and competition exposed the students to various careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

From left, Reid Williams, MiKita DeCook, Cori Pegau, and Marie Jamille Esguerra pose next to the National Ocean Science Bowl banner which has the term, ‘Yeti Crabs’ in the lower right corner. This also happens to be their team name.
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Emily Mesner is a staff reporter and photographer for The Cordova Times. Reach her at emesner@thecordovatimes.com. Emily graduated from Central Michigan University, earning a degree in photojournalism with a cultural competency certificate. She first visited Alaska in 2016, working as a media intern for the National Park Service in Kotzebue and Denali National Park and Preserve, and has been coming back ever since. To see more photos, follow @thecordovatimes and @emilymesnerphoto on Instagram.