Sunday March 10, 2013
A mighty start to challenge
By JEANNETTE GOON
Last year’s champions and an underdog team came out tops in the Negri Sembilan state Mighty Minds challenge and are all set to meet their rivals in the finals.
THEY may come from a small town but they dominated their peers at the RHB-The Star Mighty Minds Negri Sembilan state challenge held in Seremban recently.
From the first round — the multiple choice quiz — the girls from SMK Tunku Besar Tampin took the lead and maintained it throughout the day, finally winning the title of state champion in the upper secondary category.
“Reading The Star helped a lot,” said Melissa Goh, 17. With both the multiple choice and buzzer quiz focusing on general knowledge questions this year, a sure-fire way of keeping up with current events was reading the newspaper.
Since there were 120 teams that participated from each category, the multiple choice quiz was held in two rounds and even before competing, the girls were confident. “We would have answered that question correctly,” said Praveena Subramaniam, 17, referring to a question that was posed in the round before theirs.
“We read a lot of other books as well and took general knowledge quizzes online. There are applications on Facebook for this,” said Poonam Rajes Patel, 16.
While the quizzes tested the students’ ability to retain information, the hands-on challenge tests their ability to apply their knowledge.
Upper secondary students were required to come up with a method to ensure that visitors at parks did not litter, while lower secondary students had to devise a cockroach trap.
Lower secondary champions from SMK King George V performed rigorous research and came up with a trap that took advantage of the cockroach’s traits while banking in on the properties of the materials given.
“The cockroach has an exoskeleton that doesn’t allow it to squeeze through openings,” explained Vishaali Gandhi, 15. Their trap also made use of a one-way hinge that allowed cockroaches into the container but would not let it get out.
They also made use of the plasticine given. “The plasticine contains boric acid that poisons the cockroach,” she said.
After they downloaded the hands-on question that was published two weeks prior to the state challenge, their team began doing research on the characteristics of cockroaches.
“We then thought of how our model should work and designed it. We showed it to our teacher who gave us suggestions on how to improve it,” said Vishaali.
She and team mate See Jingming were part of the team that made it to the national finals last year and emerged champions in the lower secondary category. Together with new team mate Risantini Murugan, they will again make their way to Kuala Lumpur in October.
There may be straightforward approaches to tackling the hands-on question but the upper secondary team had a twist to theirs.
“Design an innovative model that offers a creative solution for the litter problem in outdoor areas,” read the question.
Instead of making a garbage bin as all the other teams did, the team from SMK Tunku Besar Tampin made a garbage bag! Complete with a strap and cover, the portable box was divided into sections which allowed users to split their trash into non-recyclables and recyclables.
Their discussions began on Facebook, where they chatted about how to create their model. Their teacher also helped with improvement and improvisation.
When asked if they had taken any ideas off the Internet, Praveena said that most of the ideas they found online “didn’t work”.
“This competition is about coming up with something new so we knew that we had to come up with something on our own,” she said.
Their teacher Goh Say Heng said that he was grateful the students were given the opportunity to take part in a competition like Mighty Minds. “Many of the students wanted to take part in the competition this year, so I had to screen them,” he said.
“This competition really helps students think outside the box instead of always focusing on their school books,” he said.
SMK King George V teacher Rose Lee said that they had to screen the students as well and this was done by conducting a mini Mighty Minds competition among their own students.
She added that although the teachers arranged to meet the students three times a week, the students actually met every day for preparations. “The students arranged their own meetings for discussions. They are very independent,” she said.
The competition, which is jointly organised by Star Publications (M) Bhd and RHB Banking Group, is now in its fifth year and is endorsed by both the Education Ministry and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.
The team from SMK Tunku Besar Tampin, will be among the 14 upper secondary teams competing for the grand prize which includes a trip to the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Ireland, sponsored by Penang Medical College.
For details, contact The Star’s Customer Care Unit at 03-7967 1777/1703 or visit