Junior Jordan Brownstein spent the weekend answering questions about history, literature and science in Ann Arbor, Michigan, this past weekend. While he usually spends his time flexing his knowledge, this time it was for the good of a team at the Academic Competition Federation national quiz bowl tournament.
Brownstein, a computer science major at the University of Maryland and the captain of the “A” team, led the Maryland academic quiz team to win first place out of all undergraduate-only teams, and fourth place overall at the competition.
“The best way to prepare is to read books, be curious about things, read Wikipedia and go out of your way to find information,” he said. “Have fun learning it. That’s how it works.”
Brownstein has been doing quiz bowls since his senior year in high school, and he earned the most points by an individual at this year’s competition — averaging 88 points per game. This means he answered about nine of the 20 tossup questions himself each round for the team of four, he said, which included students Ophir Lifshitz, Naveed Chowdhury and Sam Rombro.
The team won the undergraduate title in the final round when it beat the University of Chicago team 390-195. Brownstein answered the final question for the win by identifying the author of “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.”
The Maryland academic quiz team has a history within the ACF league — while it has not won the national championship in recent years, it has earned at least 10 titles in the ACF.
Team President Sarang Yeola, a sophomore economics and physics major, was not in Ann Arbor for the competition but said Brownstein is a great addition to the team and spends a lot of time studying.
“You don’t see him a lot outside of quiz bowl,” Yeola said. “Jordan has read a lot of books. You just have to be able to read and recall all of those books, and he is just, like, unbelievable at that — he doesn’t forget a lot of things.”
The ACF tournaments covered a wide range of topics, from literature and language to geography and science, and teams should be knowledgeable on as many subjects as they can. Brownstein said he does not enjoy answering science questions, however, so he delegates that responsibility to his teammates.
“My job is always to force my teammates to learn that stuff for me, and it worked out pretty well, I would say,” he said. “My specialties are usually history and literature, the more humanities categories.”
Chowdhury, a senior history major, said his teammate is fast, even in categories in which they both know the answer.
“Even when we’re thinking in the same way, he’ll just be three steps faster,” he said. Brownstein will “go from finding out what the clues are to the answer in a space that’s faster than anyone, whether here at Maryland or anywhere else in the country.”
Having an uncanny memory and a constant book in his hand are how his friends describe him, and certainly are signatures of Brownstein’s persona and his path to victory.
“He reads more than anyone I know,” Chowdhury said. “Whenever I see him, he is always reading.”