Above, North Hollywood High School’s “A” Team, from left, Coaches Len Soloff and Altair Maine, and students Dominick Joo, Victor Qin, Albert Liu, Richard Shuai, and Alexander Ke.

They crammed and practiced for weeks leading up to the Regional Science Bowl, but the five-member team from North Hollywood High can’t let up now, after the students successfully defended their title over the weekend to qualify for the national championship in April.

The regional title is the 18th that North Hollywood has won in the last two decades, and the 10th under coach Altair Maine, who teaches science and math in the school’s Highly Gifted Magnet.

”Science Bowl appeals to students who are curious and very competitive,” Maine said Monday. “They like winning.”

Saturday’s competition featured a game show-style format, with the winner representing L.A. Unified in the National Science Bowl, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. North Hollywood’s “A” team defeated the school’s “B” team in the finals to become the ultimate winner.

Maine noted that this year was the first time North Hollywood secured the two top spots in the District match, which is sponsored by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies took third and Palisades Charter High placed fourth.

“Science Bowl is a proud LADWP tradition and an example of the department’s commitment to the Los Angeles community,” the utility said in a statement.

Senior Victor Qin will captain his teammates – juniors Alexander Ke, Dominick Joo, Richard Shuai and sophomore Albert Liu – each won a $1,000 scholarship and an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national championships. They’ll be one of nine teams from California that will compete against nearly 60 others from 40 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Each of the nation’s regional Science Bowl contests uses the same questions, which are designed to test the students’ grasp of advanced science, technology and math concepts.

This weekend’s questions ranged from the effects of a process known as inelastic scattering, which is used in chemistry, nuclear and particle physics, to the kind of natural disaster that could result when a fluidized mass of sediments begins moving downhill.

Maine said students study individually and as a group, working out who is the strongest in a particular subject, who has the sharpest reflexes, who can think best on their feet.

“There is loads and load and loads of studying,” he said.

L.A. Unified schools have won the national championship four times over the last 25 years – Van Nuys High in 1995; Venice High in 1996 and ’97; and North Hollywood in 2001.

In addition to the scholastic contest, the Science Bowl also featured a hands-on competition, in which teams had to design and build a robotic-claw device capable of picking up and maneuvering items. Lincoln High won first place, with Van Nuys, San Pedro and Hamilton High School rounding out the top four places. Those students also won monetary scholarships.