Thursday, Apr 17, 2014
Opinion

An academic getaway


Published:

Whatís the name of the chemical formed when the element whose atomic number is the century in which the Battle of Hastings took place is combined with the element whose atomic number is the sum of the first four prime numbers?

This was just one of the hundreds of questions asked at the Commissionerís Academic Challenge at Disney this weekend. This three-day contest was the state tournament for Florida Academic Teams. I was proud to represent Highlands County with the rest of my Sebring High School team as we traveled to Orlando and competed against some of the brightest students in the state.

A-Team competitions are much like brain bowls. Contests can have anywhere from three to six competing teams and each team has between four and six members. Four members from each team may sit at the table at one time and a buzzer sits in the middle of each table. As questions are read, teams must buzz in first and respond with the right answer to earn points. Wrong answers result in a loss of points. The team with the most points in the end is the winner.

Questions cover a wide range of topics including math, science, literature, history, music and art. Obviously a wide breadth of knowledge is necessary to be successful in these contests, but the hard part is not only knowing the answer, but knowing the answer first. Often, a team will hit the buzzer before the question is completely read.

This weekend was the first A-Team competition I have ever partaken in so I had to learn fast. I knew the questions would be challenging but I wasnít quite ready for the brilliance our team would be up against. On the first day, I found myself still writing out questions while other teams were already buzzing in and answering. The questions were rapid fire and changed subjects after every answer. There was no way of knowing what the next question would be about.

Our team consisted of six members and each had their own specialty. The captain was Matt Juve, who handled most of the math questions for the team. Also with us was Scout Royce, Francin Espiritu, Alyssa Mahaffey and Ivanna Santos, whose subject areas were literature, art, science, and music respectively. I was on the team for history. Our coach was Brittany Klobuchar, an English teacher at Sebring High School and close friend of all members of the team.

The entire weekend was a great experience. In our opening competition on Thursday afternoon we received third place, which gave us a spot in the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals on Friday morning we got first place which guaranteed our spot in the semifinals Saturday morning. Our competition on Saturday morning didnít go as well as the first two, but we ended up only one spot away from the finals and tied for 7th in the state when the weekend ended. Everyone on the team was excited with our success as the other teams were very competitive.

When we werenít competing, we spent our time visiting Disney theme parks. We studied literature and formulas on the bus to the parks and even in ride lines, but spending time at the most magical place on earth was a great getaway.

Going into the weekend, I didnít know what to expect. Now that I have one competition under my belt, though, I canít wait until next year.

The answer to the question, by the way, is sodium chloride.

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