Brainiacs are Sydney bound

By Lachlan Durling

IN A first for the school, Moama Anglican Grammar will have 28 students travelling to Sydney to compete in the Tournament of the Minds (TOM).

After blitzing the regional finals in Shepparton on August 24, seven teams of seven were whittled down to four and will be heading to Sydney for the state finals on Sunday, TOM is a problem-solving program for teams of students from both primary and secondary years. Teams were required to work together on a long term challenge for six weeks without assistance from teachers, parents or peers before presenting a solution in Shepparton.

“It’s quite unique in the way that you have primary and secondary students working on the same problem,” Moama Grammar’s Stacey Briggs said.

“The primary students would work on their problem at lunch time and after school while the secondary students were working in any breaks they had.”

The challenges cover every discipline, from the arts, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), language literature to social sciences — each team was presented with a problem to solve as well as a spontaneous challenge thrown in on the presentation day.

For the performing arts, this also included making their own costumes — a new experience for many.

The regional finals took place at La Trobe University where four of the Grammar teams placed first and one received honours — or second place.

“In the primary school section we placed first in the language literature and arts sections, while in the secondary we placed first in the language literature and arts sections and one honours place in the STEM section,” Ms Briggs said.

“It’s amazing, in seven years we’ve had one team progress to state finals but four in one year is terrific.”

In Sydney, students will have three hours after being presented with a challenge to present to the judges. In the midpoint of their brainstorming, they’ll also have to abandon their planning and solve the day’s mystery problem.

“There’s no teacher help, they have to write their scripts, make their costumes, props and complete the mystery problem in three hours,” Ms Briggs said.

But for the teachers at Moama Grammar, their students success proved a problem in itself — how were they going to get 28 students to Sydney for the weekend?

“It’s a bit of a problem for us being on the border — there’s a lot of travel involved,” Ms Briggs said.

Luckily, the Moama Bowling Club could help, pitching in to cover some of the costs for students.

“We believe the students learning shouldn’t be restricted because of cost or location,” Moama Bowling Club’s George Santos said.

“Being so far from Sydney, we wanted to be able to support the school and send everyone across.

“This (TOM) provides students with the opportunity to represent their region for something that isn’t sport.”

As for Stacey Briggs, she was once again speechless.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the bowling club. It’s unexpected but really exciting,” she said.

“Our principal, Carmel Spry, has been amazing. Before we headed off to Shepparton she said if we won we should go to Sydney.

“Little did we know, we’d have four teams heading off.”

The Moama Grammar school will be one of the largest teams at the New South Wales finals, and if a team wins they’ll be off to the national finals in Darwin.