Trivial pursuits: Young know-it-alls team is best in Kansas

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Quick, answer this question: An ingot might consist of: A) silver. B) cotton. C) porcelain. D) chocolate. E) petroleum.

The answer is A.

Did you answer it in five seconds? Or 10? The quicker it is answered, the more points you earn for your team. But remember, it's better to answer correctly on the first try, even if it takes a little more time.

That was just a sample of what students in the Knowledge Master Open had to face. The Knowledge Master Open is an academic competition for students in grades 5 and 6, middle school, junior high and high school.

Thirteen Washburn Rural Middle School eighth-graders recently competed in the Dec. 7 KMO. The group took first place in Kansas out of 45 middle schools that competed. They took 13th place internationally out of 776 middle schools.

Students who are interested in competing at their school form teams and receive curriculum-based contest questions on a CD-ROM, according to www.greatauk. com, which is the Web site for the competition. Academic Hallmarks in Durango, Colo., sponsors the competition.

Teams compete using a computer at their own school. Competitors enter a special password, which starts the contest. The team must answer the questions in one session, which lasts two to 2 1/2 hours for secondary teams and one to 1 1/2 hours for fifth- and sixth-grade teams. Only pencils and paper can be used by students during the competition. Teams receive points based on time and accuracy.

KMO began in 1983 with 74 schools, according to greatauk. com. It now annually attracts up to 4,000 schools internationally.

Sam Ho served as the keyboarder for the Washburn team, which meant he used the computer keyboard to type in his team's answers.

"I think that it is an excellent way for students to expand their opportunities and enrich their academics through a fun competition," Ho said.

This was Paige Strecker's second competition.

"I think we did really good," said Strecker, who said she did her best work in the literature section.

Donna Sanders, who has sponsored Washburn teams for 13 years, said this is the first time one of her teams has taken first place.

There is another competition in April, and many of the 13 Washburn students want to compete again to take a shot at winning first place internationally.

"We're geared up for April," Sanders said, "but we'll see. This is a very interesting group. They have a lot of outside knowledge -- a lot of different interests."

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