Announcing USABB, National Science & Humanities Bees

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Great Bustard
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Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:23 pm
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Announcing USABB, National Science & Humanities Bees

Post by Great Bustard » Fri Jan 22, 2016 5:12 am

NHBB is delighted to announce the beginning of a new series of competitions for elementary and middle school students, the US Academic Bee & Bowl, the National Science Bee, and the National Humanities Bee. As the names imply, these represent a new direction for us, in that these are specifically non-social studies centered competitions. We feel strongly, however, that our years of experience in developing new competitions and our unparalleled commitment to academic competition outreach has given us a firm foundation on which to grow these new events.

The US Academic Bee and Bowl will be contested at approximately 10-20 regional sites around the USA between February and April, leading to a National Championship on the weekend of May 20-22 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA (the NHBB high school Nationals host hotel). At the National Championships, on Friday, all participating students will be able to compete in either the National Science Bee or the National Humanities Bee. The US Academic Bowl preliminaries and early playoff rounds will then be held on Saturday, with the US Academic Bee preliminaries on Sunday morning, followed by the final playoff rounds of the Bowl, and the Bee playoffs in their entirety.

While the website at contains a full description of what the competitions will entail, I would like to highlight a number of their important features that will be of benefit to the community.

1. The first all-subject, national pyramidal quiz bowl competitions for individual elementary school and middle school students (i.e. as opposed to teams), along with subject-specific competitions that complement the preexisting National History Bee, National Citizenship Bee, Pop Culture Challenge, and US Geography Olympiad.
With tens of thousands of elementary and middle school students competing in quiz bowl and individual social studies tournaments around the country, there is no reason why there shouldn’t be a large prospective number of participants in these events. These will fill a current void in the quiz bowl landscape.

2. A second National Championship for teams of 8th graders and younger, and with an expanded qualification threshold.
HSNCT and NSC appeared basically at the same time, and both have grown and survived. MSNCT now is far larger than HSNCT was in its first few years, so the notion of having two separate national championships is not unprecedented and is viable. Moreover, certain teams may, on any given Nationals weekend, be unable to attend (at least at full strength), or find that a trip to a Nationals site involving flights is unaffordable. This gives teams a second option should they be interested.
Additionally, NHBB has shown the value in a more lenient qualification threshold for the National Championships. Currently, MSNCT has a relatively difficult qualification threshold, leaving many teams to not consider a trip to a National Championships (which can have a significant impact on how seriously team members take the activity). USABB will accept at its National Championships any team that has finished in the top 50% at any pyramidal quiz bowl tournament (not just USABB Regionals) during the course of the 2015-16 year. The sole exception to this is tournaments that have both a novice and a standard division. In that case, only the top 50% of the higher division will qualify.

3. A different format of questions and matches
Aside from the individual-student competitions, US Academic Bowl Nationals (and Regionals) will employ a new format, including:
-subject-related bounceback bonuses
-20 point powers and no negs
-somewhat longer tossup questions (see samples)
-60 second rounds in the middle
-a new distribution

We are not claiming that this format is superior to preexisting formats, but the different variety will provide a new and entertaining way to play in a way that adheres to good quiz bowl principles. The coexistence of NSC and HSNCT, or ACF and ICT at the college level, being run on somewhat different formats is further evidence of the merits of this approach. Some students and coaches may prefer this way; others may prefer other formats. But having a variety of formats has proven to work well for high school and college quiz bowl, and the same will no doubt hold for younger players.
Further details on the format for the Bee and Bowl events is at Note that the Bowl format is much closer to standard 20/20 quiz bowl than the National History Bowl format.

4. A dedicated Elementary School Division
The National History Bee, for the past few years (as well as the US Geography Olympiad beginning in 2015) has run a separate Elementary Division for students in 6th grade and younger. On a statewide level, Kentucky has had very well-attended Governor’s Cup Elementary School competitions for many years and there has been an increase in elementary school participation throughout the country over the past two years. There is no reason why elementary schools cannot participate in quiz bowl. Additionally, it can be difficult for 6th graders to get a toehold in quiz bowl when they are obligated to compete against students two years older than they are. The existence of a separate Elementary Division (for all four new competitions) will help bring more students into quiz bowl at a younger age, thereby fostering the growth and development of the community as a whole.
Elementary Division teams will qualify both via USABB Regionals, but also by virtue of how many Middle School teams a school qualifies. If School A thus qualifies 3 teams for Nationals by having 3 teams finish in the top 50% at any USABB regional or any one (this isn’t cumulative across all tournaments) quiz bowl tournament, then they can also bring 3 Elementary Division teams for a total of 6.
In the future, we may inaugurate a division solely for 4th graders and younger, though this is likely several years away until quiz bowl has taken deeper root at more elementary schools.

5. $10,000+ in Prize Money at the National Championships
As a further incentive, we will be guaranteeing at least $10,000 in prize money at stake at Nationals, with the top Middle School Bowl team being guaranteed $2000 of this, the top Elementary team being guaranteed $1000, $500 to both the Middle School and Elementary champions in the National Science and National Humanities Bees, and $1000 each to the Middle School and Elementary champions in the US Academic Bee. This will help ensure that the top players and teams in the country will join us, and provide a worthy award for their excellence.
At the same time, in light of the short time frame between now and our National Championships, we are offering free entry to the first team from each school at the regional tournament they attend, while keeping other costs low (a Nationals base price of $275 for teams over a 2 hour drive from Nationals, $375 for those closer). This will encourage registration.

6. A New Series of Regional Tournaments to Contest
We will also be offering a series of Regional tournaments. Some of these will be held more on the National History Bee and Bowl model where hosts provide the space, receive free teams, but we handle finding directors and the coordination of the event. Others will run more on the standard quiz bowl model of hosts taking the lead on the organizational side, with USABB providing the questions, and the protocols for running the event. We are interested in looking for host schools that are interested in either model. Further information on hosting can be found at:
Host schools also have incentives, with a guaranteed free team at Nationals, 3 free teams and 12 free Bee students at regionals. High schools who host can also have a team for National History Bowl High School Nationals for free in exchange for hosting. Please contact me if you are interested in hosting.

7. Expanded Outreach Efforts Dedicated at All-Subject Quiz Bowl
Having brought NHBB/IHBB to thousands of schools in the USA and over 20 countries internationally over the past six years, our dedication to the growth of academic competition is unmatched. We look forward to spending a significant amount of time and resources in bringing awareness of USABB, and the National Science and Humanities Bees to existing quiz bowl teams around the country, and we will be reaching out to thousands of schools beyond that. We have a vision that every elementary and middle school in America will play NHBB, USABB, and other high quality tournaments and look forward to spending the coming decades making that a reality. And if there were ever doubts about our commitment to help quiz bowl (as opposed to just History Bowl) grow, this should settle that argument for good.

8. Plans for International Integration
Furthermore, at our European and Asian IHBB Championships this year, we will be inaugurating the European Academic Bowl Championships and the Asian Academic Bowl Championships. If there is interest in Canada, and among the Canadian quiz bowl community, we are open to this as well in conjunction with our 2016 Canadian IHBB Championships.
In the short term, this will serve as a catalyst for dozens of IHBB teams to get exposure to quiz bowl; in the medium term, this will lead to new circuits and pyramidal foreign language quiz bowl; in the long term (i.e. in the next 30-50 years), this will lead to quiz bowl becoming not just the domain of less than 20% of schools in the USA, but the majority of schools worldwide. Nolwenn and I fully intend on and look forward to spending much of our lives making that vision a reality.

Lastly, just a few notes on our capacity to handle these new competitions. In terms of demands on writers, we will not be running the US History Bee or US Geography Olympiad National Qualifying Quiz Tournaments this year. Also, the International History Olympiad will have somewhat fewer sets in 2016 and then will move to a biennial model for the foreseeable future thereafter. Additionally, with NAQT’s decision not to employ high school writers, that opens up a considerable amount of spare capacity compared with last year, and we will gladly welcome high school writers for USABB. The NHBB Writer Training Program is also busy mentoring many new writers for the community, which will also help increase capacity. Finally, a substantial portion of the USABB sets will be written by our in-house staff, which does not place added demands on the community as a whole. Kristin Strey, who has extensive experience overseeing high quality middle school level question sets with SCOP will be the USABB Director of Question Production, assisted by Brad Fischer. Noah Prince is also in the process of expanding NHBB’s computer database of questions to accommodate USABB’s format and needs, which will increase efficiency.
Marshall Mullins, Nolwenn Madden, and I will take the lead on outreach to schools, and we will be assisted by interested NHBB Tournament Coordinators. If others are interested in assisting us in any capacity, from writing to directing to Nationals staffing or beyond, please let me know at

Finally with the new ACE / NHBB arrangement in place, I have been relieved from a major area of responsibility that I had last year, while leaving the middle school and elementary divisions of the National History Bee, National History Bowl and related competitions in capable hands. At the same time, we will be running anywhere from the same to 5 to 10 fewer high school tournaments this year (though these have been better attended) than last year. So that increases capacity too. In any case, the expanded system of Regional Coordinators that we inaugurated at the start of the year has been working well, and has also taken a major amount of work off of my shoulders.

I personally am greatly excited to be launching the US Academic Bee and Bowl, and welcome feedback, comments, and suggestions. As with any new venture, USABB will be a work in progress as we improve and expand, but just as NHBB benefitted greatly from community input, I hope and trust the same will be true for USABB. We are eager to run it for the good of the community for many years to come, and we look forward to seeing you and your team at a USABB tournament soon!
David Madden
Ridgewood (NJ) '99, Princeton '03
Founder and Director: International History Bee and Bowl, National History Bee and Bowl (High School Division), International History Olympiad, United States Geography Olympiad, US History Bee, US Academic Bee and Bowl, National Humanities Bee, National Science Bee, International Academic Bowl.
Adviser and former head coach for Team USA at the International Geography Olympiad

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