Students of the Penn Quiz Bowl team returned to campus last weekend triumphant after earning top spots at a national tournament. Now, they are gearing up to compete again this Saturday at the Academic Competition Federation Nationals, which is at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
At the Intercollegiate Championship Tournament in Chicago last Saturday, Penn's Quiz Bowl Division Two team secured third place, while its Division One team placed fourth.
“It was better than we were expecting because the teams going in that were expected to be the winners were Chicago and Berkeley, and maybe Harvard too," College freshman Nitin Rao said. "We were not really on the radar, and so us getting third place was a pretty big deal."
Rao competed in Division Two, which is oriented toward “people who have never played a collegiate championship before,” he explained.
“We’ve been working very hard towards this and it felt good when everything paid off," College junior Paul Lee said. "We’re competing in another one this Saturday. We haven’t been really celebrating because we have to focus on the other currently."
Team leader Eric Mukherjee, a Penn Medicine MD-PhD student explained that the ACF Nationals are more challenging, and competitors play in the same division. "It’s a little more difficult, no babying, the questions are significantly harder ... we've got some tough competition from Yale, Berkeley, and Chicago."
According to Mukherjee, Penn won ACF Nationals in 2015 but has not since done very well in the interim, although he's optimistic for this year.
The structure of the quiz bowls are complex. There are over a dozen rounds in the tournament, which consists of "toss-up" questions that teams compete to answer by buzzing in and "bonus" rounds, where team members have time to discuss before answering. The questions cover topics such as history, literature, science, and religion and philosophy.
“It’s a lot harder than Jeopardy is, at least I think," Rao said.
Team members said that Penn's Quiz Bowl prepares for these tournaments all year, practicing together a couple times a week and holding a regional tournament at Penn every year.
"Penn Bowl happens around October, where we basically write our own question set and host a tournament for other colleges nearby using the questions we write," Lee said.
Around 30–40 teams come to Penn for Penn Bowl each year, according to Mukherjee.
"This has been happening since the mid-90s. It’s a long-standing Penn tradition that we are very proud of," Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee said he has high hopes for the club's future.
"I’m very proud of the fact that we have a lot of underclassmen that are very dedicated to the club and I think that that bodes well for the future," he said. "Hopefully, we can bring back the title this year.”