Panasonic Challenge Team Places Second

July 21, 2005
A team of five Montgomery County Public Schools students triumphed over 30 other teams to finish second in the nation in the 18th annual Panasonic Academic Challenge (PAC).

The academic competition for high school students, which included teams from 30 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, was held in late June at Disney's Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

PAC teams buzz in on questions to try to earn points as they do on locally televised programs such as “It's Academic” and “Quizmaster Challenge.” Unlike those programs, however, PAC matches involve four or more teams and can take two hours or longer to complete. Players are asked questions from math, science, language arts, the fine arts, social studies, French, Spanish, and technology. The questions are written by educators from high schools and colleges throughout the nation.

The five members of the 2005 Team Maryland were Martino Choi, recent Montgomery Blair High School graduate and incoming freshman at the University of Maryland; Zachary Hommer, recent Walter Johnson High School graduate and incoming freshman at Brandeis University; Saul Kinter, recent Montgomery Blair High School graduate and incoming freshman at Princeton University; Zachary Klitzman, rising senior at Walt Whitman High School; and Chris Ray, rising senior at Richard Montgomery High School.

The team members were chosen by competitive audition over a three-month period from more than a dozen candidates from Montgomery County, Prince George's County, and Howard County high schools.

The students were coached by Joseph Caulfield, English teacher at James Hubert Blake High School; Michael Kravitz, retired chemistry teacher from Montgomery Blair HS; and Mark Whipple, physics and astronomy teacher at Walter Johnson High School.

“It was a great tournament for the players,” said Coach Kravitz. “They proved that they could play with the best players in the nation.”

By finishing second, each team member earned a $1,500 college scholarship funded by the Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company, along with a championship ring produced by Herff Jones, Inc.

During the tournament's 18-year history, a Maryland team has won the competition seven times--more than any other state team--and has finished in second place three times.

NOTE: A photograph of the MCPS team and the team coaches is available upon request.

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