The National Science Bowl is the largest science competition in the United States with more than 14,000 participants. The 113 finalist teams converge here at the 4-H Convention Center, in Chevy Chase, M.D. on Saturday and Sunday for the round-robin tournament that determines who advances to the "final 8" teams that advance to final double-elimination round. | Photo courtesy of the National Science Bowl

What was first direct indication that the speed of light could not be exceeded? You could have said, the Theory of Relativity, which would be wrong. Albert Einstein didn’t publish his theory until 1905. The answer, of course, is the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction, which came about in the late-19th century.

By correctly answering questions like this at regional competitions nationwide, 113 middle and high school teams have earned a spot to compete in the National Science Bowl Finals in Washington D.C. April 27 to 30.

The Finals pit the 69 high school and 44 middle school teams against one another in a round-robin tournament. They are awarded points for correctly answered questions about biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, astronomy, and math. At the end of each Jeopardy-style match, the winning team receives two points, tied teams each receive one point, and the losing team receives no points. The teams with the most match points from each high and middle division then advance to a final round on Monday morning.

While the majority of the finals will be held at the 4-H Convention Center, in Chevy Chase, M.D., the double-elimination final rounds on Monday kick off at the National Building Museum, less than a mile from the White House. The top teams will compete in a double-elimination round with an audience of their science bowl peers and coaches. Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu will act as the guest science judge, the final word to challenges of whether an answer thought to be wrong by either team or team coach is accurate.

The prize? This year, the top high school team goes on a nine-day tour of Alaska that will include a series of day trips along the themes of geology, glaciology, biology, and plate tectonics. The second place team will be awarded a four-day trip to Yellowstone National Park.

A National Science Bowl victory goes beyond the opportunity for travel. Simply getting to the finals brings prestige and distinction to the team members and their schools. In order to get to the finals, these teams beat 15 to 50 other teams at their respective regional events. The victors earn a solid bullet on their college applications and bring home bragging rights for their schools.

The finals, start at 9:30 a.m. Monday, at the National Building Museum. So, join along answering questions like, what substance remains colorless in an acid solution but turns dark red in a base? If you answered, phenolphthalein (pronounced fa-NOLF-tha-leen), then you were right - and in good company with the contestants of the National Science Bowl.

Update: See the final coverage about the 2012 National Science Bowl Finals and the Lithium-Ion Battery Powered Model Car Competition