Sophomores succeed at national TEAMS competition in Orlando

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Sophomores Vani Mohindra, Sachin Shah, Cynthia Chen, Allison Jia, Jacqueline "Jackie" Yang, Emily Liu and Eileen Li pose with their trophy.

by Nina Gee and Helen Yang

A team of Harker sophomores won several awards in the national TEAMS competition this June in Orlando, Florida.

TEAMS, which stands for Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science, is a national competition for middle and high schoolers consisting of three main components: Written Essay, Prepared Presentation, and Problem Solving. This year, the teams focused on the theme, “Engineering the Environment.” 50 teams competed against Harker in the freshman/sophomore division, with the national competition drawing more than 1,200 people.

The Harker team, composed of captain Jackie Yang (10), Allison Jia (10), Cynthia Chen (10), Eileen Li (10), Emily Liu (10), Sachin Shah (10), Vani Mohindra (10) and Kyle Li (10), who only participated in the state competition, placed second in California. Only 0.6 points away from first place, the team qualified for the national round.

“The problem solving part at nationals is an engineering part and a math part, and obviously Harker has a bunch of great math students,” team captain Jackie Yang (10) said. “Actually, for the problem solving part we did a lot of practice engineering things during the school year.”

At nationals, the Harker team placed first in Problem Solving, fourth in the Best in Nation overall, and eighth in Prepared Presentation.

“I think it was a bit of luck,” Cynthia Chen (10), a member of the team, said, “but we also were pretty prepared. We did practice multiple choice from previous years and we also did sample engineering challenges.”

Teams wrote in-depth essays based on research conducted on the topic released, and presented it. At nationals, the teams were allotted 90 minutes to complete 25 college level math questions and to construct the most efficient air debris filter possible using designated materials. Each team was given space to work on, and both the math questions and the design challenge were done simultaneously. Team members split up tasks in order to finish both parts of the contest in the time allotted.

Teams qualified for the national competition through a state-level competition. This year, several Harker teams competed in a regional competition was held at the Harker upper school on Feb. 25. High-scoring teams from across the state then had the option to compete in the national competition.

The regional competition consisted of an 80-question multiple choice round, a pre-written essay and a design challenge. During the challenge, contestants had to design a robotic arm that could pick up a water bottle from a distance.

The 2018 state-level TEAMS competition will take place between Feb. 12 and Mar. 18, and will explore topics such as light pollution, solar power, and global health. The national competition will also be held next June.

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on September 6, 2017.