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      Pantex Science Bowl tests brains of middle school students

      While many kids are testing their physical abilities on the basketball court, others tested their math and science skills at West Texas A&M University Saturday.

      The Pantex Middle School Science Bowl gave students from all over the Texas Panhandle a chance to win $1,000 for their school and a trip to Washington D.C. The tournament has been going on for 21 years, and competition officials said it does more for the students than just test their knowledge.

      "I think probably more importantly it's about building up their confidence and letting them know being a smart kid is a good thing," Pantex Public Affairs Specialist Greg Cunningham said. "There are people that respect you for being the smart kid and so I think that's probably the best benefit to these kids is to their confidence and their self image."

      Pantex workers enjoyed the competition because it gave them the opportunity to see the kids who may soon take over the reins at the country's only nuclear weapons assembly facility.

      "We've got a lot of folks with a lot of knowledge that have been out there for a really long time at the plant," Cunningham stated, "and, so, we're looking for that next generation of scientists and engineers to come along who's going to take over for them."

      Many students prepared months in advance for the competition and team coaches gave their spare time to train the kids because of the rewards they said the kids gain from the experience.

      "They could probably look at scholarships and, in addition, maybe finding out about fields that they're interested in and making connections meeting people that are in the science field," Friona Middle School Science Bowl Coach Heather Stowers said.

      Friona Middle School won last year's competition, the $1,000 and the trip to Washington D.C. to compete in the national championship.

      Canyon Middle School won the tournament for the first time this year, followed by Highland Park's Green team who took second place and Highland Park's Yellow team that won third place.