Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Events test academic knowledge

PAULLINA-Andrew Van Beek may not be to the level of Albert Enstein yet, but he's working on it.

After qualifying at a local Great Plains Math League competition last month at Dordt College in Sioux Center, the South O'Brien High School senior talented and gifted student earned the chance to compete at the state tournament last Saturday at Iowa City West High School.

In both advanced level math tournaments, Van Beek had to compete in two individual and two team rounds, in which he was paired with other participating students.

"The two individual rounds include a target round and sprint round and the two team rounds include a team test and relay round," said TAG teacher Denise Erdmann. "in order to advance from the local to sate tournament, the students needed to meet the minimum cutoff scores. Andrew went to state because he met those qualifying scores."

And at the state tournament last Saturday, Van Beek advanced once again, after tying for third place in 12th-grade target round. He will vie for a spot in the top three gain in Friday, May 8, when he travels to the regional Great Plains Math League tournament at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

Van Beek is not the only Wolverine that has been stretching his brain muscles lately.

Model United Nations
South O'Brien High School seniors Emily Hill and Andrew Van Beek and sophomores Seth Wester, Kari Lenz and Kaitlin Thiel are nearly experts on the government and foreign policy of Iran.

The five Model United Nations members traveled to compete April 16-17 at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

At the conference, which is a simulation of the actual United Nations, participating teams chose a country to represent and do background research on that particular country. In South O'Brien's case, it was Iran.

"We conducted research based on what Iran would do, or how it would act," Erdmann said. "When we went to the competition, we then used that information to role play or simulate the actual United Nations."

While there, Hill, the team's head delegate, served on the International Court of Justice Committee, while Van Beek was on the Political and Security Committee, Wester was on the Social Humanitarian and Culture Committee, Lenz was on the Legal III Committee and Thiel was on the Legal II Committee.

Although there is a total of nine committees for each country to utilize, Iran only has delegates on a certain amount, so the students chose which committee they wanted to serve on from that list, based on the topics they were most interested in.

Quality delegating is a must - as evidenced by Wester, who earned outstanding delegate honors for the Social Humanitarian and Culture Committee.

"One to two delegates out of the whole committee are recognized for their outstanding work during the whole conference," Erdmann said. "It's something that is an excellent honor for Seth."

IT Olympics
Seven South O'Brien High School TAG students recently went to the Olympics, but they exercised their minds instead of their bodies.

South O'Brien Senior Andrew Van Beek, junior Phil Hilla, sophomores Kaitlin Thiel, Seth Wester and Kari Lenz, and freshmen John Crowhurst and Heath Negus competed at the Information Technology Olympics April 20-21 at Iowa State University in Ames.

The students competed as two teams - Hilla, Theil, Wester and Crowhurst were on one and Van Beek, Lenz and Negus were on the other.

The first team competed in game design, in which they were challenged to create a game geared toward middle school students that emphasizes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education by using ELLIS programing software.

The primary challenge was worth 50 percent of the team's points, but throughout the two days, they also were encouraged to compete in real-life contests, which accounted for 30 percent of the team's score.

"Those may include logic puzzles or challenges where there are incomplete worlds and the students have to add components or complete the game," Erdmann said.

The team finished second overall.

The second team competed in robotics, in which the primary challenge involved creating a sumor robot using LEGO Mindstorms.

After the robot was completed, the South O'Brien team had theirs sumo wrestle 20 other teams in a three-foot diameter ring.

"In addition to that, their real-time challenges included creating a race car for drag racing, creating a monkey bot and catapult," Erdmann said.

Although the robotics team did not finish in the top three, Erdmann still thought the team made a solid showing.

"We were only 47 points away from third place, so it's safe to say that we were one of the top teams there, we just didn't place in the top three," she said.

That was quite a feat considering there were 400 high school students at the competition and this was only South O'Brien's second year competing.

Both teams also had to hold a community service project prior to attending the IT Olympics.

"Our project this year was a program that the kids entitled, 'Word to the People,'" Erdmann said. "The purpose of the project was to teach adults the various functions and practical applications that Microsoft Word has to offer, so they held an interactive session at the high school on one of the inservice days for adults who wanted to learn more about Microsoft Word."

This article appeared in the May 2, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

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