Brain Busters

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Brain Busters, stylized as BrainBusters, is a high school quiz bowl tournament sponsored by WellSpan Health (formerly by Westfield Insurance and Capital Blue Cross) and televised by WGAL 8 of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


Brain Busters was first held in 2002. It is hosted by Rich Rosen, a gifted education teacher and television show host. From 1998 to 2001 it was preceded by a similar program known as High Q, televised by WHTM of Harrisburg and also hosted by Rosen. Rich Rosen is well-regarded for his extremely charismatic, friendly, and welcoming qualities. The show's format is considered Bad Quiz Bowl, and has many similar problems that other events like the NAC have. Unlike the NAC, though, Rich Rosen is more professional in his hosting.


The tournament is structured as a single-elimination bracket; recent fields have been capped at 38 teams. Teams are chosen by random drawing; teams from Lancaster, though, are generally given preference, with the remaining slots filled from schools in the Susquehanna Valley. In the past, schools as far away as Mifflin County have attended. A "wild card" slot has been included, depending on the field structure, to let the team with the highest losing score return. In more recent renditions of the program, a third place game has been aired prior to the championship.

The format is an idiosyncratic variation of four-quarter format involving five rounds as follows:

  • first round: 10-point tossups
  • second round: one-on-one face-off between individual players on three 10-point tossups
  • third round: lightning round with three choices (rather than the four given at the NAC)
  • fourth round: wager round
  • fifth round: 20-point tossups.


Prizes have included various values of college scholarships and free entry to a local amusement park for the student body of the winning high school. Each show often includes a "bonus question" at the end of the first quarter that grants the correct team free Turkey Hill ice cream, or a similar prize.

In more recent years, the program generally hands out grants to the schools on behalf of their sponsor. With the change to WellSpan Health, the prize pool decreased. Teams that make it to a certain point in the tournament are guaranteed a certain level of grant, with better finishes resulting in more money. The highest-known prize given was $5,000 dollars to the winning team. Today, the winning team also receives free iPads. The grant money is written to the school district, where 20% of the funds are allowed to be used in any capacity as decided by the school, but the other 80% must be used for an educational purpose.

All teams that compete are guaranteed to receive a participation award, which previously has included low-quality portable phone chargers and a travel mug, both with the logo of the sponsor on the side.

Explanation of Quality

The tossups used in Brain Busters are not pyramidal, and often vary in quality. Questions are rarely longer than two sentences, and mostly require an answerline to be given; others, though, are multiple choice. Multiple choice tossups generally ask for players to name a year an event occurred.

Some questions, though, do start with more obscure information, then ask for something specific in the second sentence. However, these again are not always truly pyramidal, as many of the first sentences include a giveaway clue, leading to buzzer races. Usually, a handful of the tossups each game are hoses.

In terms of content, Brain Busters actually covers some of the basic high school canon in its tossups, especially in history and literature, as well as current events, sports, and other various trash.

In the lightning round, though, the question quality changes significantly. Three categories are given for teams to answer as many questions as possible in 60 seconds, with the team losing getting to pick the category first. The categories, though, are often misleading, except for the almost-always-included category where all answers start with the same letter. Generally speaking, this category is much simpler than others, and is almost always chosen first. The answerlines in this category vary wildly.

The wager round allows players to gamble between 0 and 25 points. The question is read twice by a recording of a WGAL news anchor and, surprisingly, is often formatted like a pyramidal bonus.

The questions have had numerous repeats, even within the same season, leading to players recording the airings of the show and writing down the questions used. The repeats include both the tossups, as well as unused categories in the lightning round. When asked if the questions are written in-house, Rich Rosen replied that "the questions are from another company the studio hires."


Year Champion Runner-Up Link
2017 Hempfield 365 Ephrata 285
2016 Cedar Crest 440 Spring Grove 110 Link
2013 Manheim Township 480 Hershey 305
2012 Manheim Township 545 Lower Dauphin 345 Link
2011 Lancaster Catholic 420 Manheim Township 380
2009 Cumberland Valley 415 Lancaster Country Day 385
2008 Manheim Township
2006 Penn Manor Manheim Township Link

External Links Brain Busters

Brain Busters on Westfield's site

Capital Blue Cross press release for the 2002 Brain Busters season

Linden Hall student newspaper with full format description