FHS beats PV in academic competition

Joshua Kellogg
Piedra Vista students Samantha DeWees, left, and Andi Johnson struggle to come up with the answer to a question Thursday during the Brain Squad academic quiz competition at Farmington High School's Spotlight Theater.

FARMINGTON – Students from Farmington High School won the inaugural Brain Squad competition Thursday, narrowly beating the students from Piedra Vista High School in a new academic challenge.

The Spotlight Theater in the FHS Fine Arts Building was full of students from both high schools who were eager to compete on five-person teams to determine who would win the Brain Squad glass trophy.

“It’s different, but I think it’s really cool to finally be able to (compete) in something not sports,” PV senior Eric Ensign said. “That’s basically all we have been doing for the crosstown rivalry.”

FHS students in Carey Halnier’s gifted seminar staged the event.

The students created their own version of a knowledge bowl as part of a group project and held the first school-wide competition on Dec. 17. A total of six teams competed to see which would face off against the PV students.

The winning team was AARP from FHS, which defeated the Visitors team from Piedra Vista by a score of 9-8. The teams were tied at 8 points leading into the last question.

Students from Piedra Vista and Farmington high schools participate Thursday in the Brain Squad academic competition at Farmington High School's Spotlight Theater.

FHS senior and AARP team member Raimi Clark answered the final question while Steven Clark, no relation, moderator and Farmington High drama teacher, was still reading the question. Steven Clark was describing what Olympus Mons — the largest known volcano in the solar system — is. But before he could ask the competitors where the volcano is located, Raimi Clark pushed the buzzer and provided the correct answer, Mars.

Fellow AARP team member and FHS senior Christina Ayoub said it was fun to compete against the students from Piedra Vista. Ayoub said the victory was stressful because the championship round came down to the final question.

Athena Borgialli, a PV gifted teacher, said the Brain Squad competition was a project that allows gifted students to express their energy, enthusiasm and creativity in a new way.

“They don’t often get the opportunity to express those things,” Borgialli said “They get to show off their intelligence, and the competition and rivalry adds a fun element.”

The trophy for the Brain Squad academic quiz competition is pictured Thursday at Farmington High School's Spotlight Theater.

Halnier’s students spent about two weeks of class time developing the academic competition in December 2015. They created the set, decorated the stage and developed the rules for Brain Squad from research into other academic competitions, according to FHS sophomore Autumn Foley.

“I didn’t know it would have turned into this,” Foley said. “I think its cool PV agreed to do it.”

Corth Ellsworth, Farmington Municipal School District enrichment coordinator, watched the competition and said it would be a great idea if other San Juan County high schools could join the Farmington high schools to grow the Brain Squad competition.

“With the kids here being as excited about it as they were, I think it lends itself to trying to have some enjoyable competition among the kids in the county,” Ellsworth said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.