Midland Adventist Academy

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Brain Games

Midland Adventist Academy made its first trip to Southwestern Adventist University's biennial "Brain Games" science and math competition on January 21 - 23, and found a formula for success.

This year's competition had the theme "Outbreak," and consisted of a simulated public health emergency about which students had to gather clues, analyze data, and draw conclusions. Fourteen SDA academies from all over the United States participated.

Students working at lab ench
Midland students become familiar with proper
lab methods during the "Outbreak" competition
MAA seniors Shelby Seibold, Sarah Whitson, and Robby Willer learned about pathogenic outbreaks and epidemiology through lectures and on-campus interactions with college students who played the roles of patients, nurses, and lab technicians.

Jason Donovan, MAA science teacher, served as sponsor for the trip and assisted the students who worked as public health investigators attempting to define what the germ was, where it came from, how it spread, and how to stop it.

Team member Shelby Seibold said she was drawn in by the process of gathering data and working as a group to figure out how to stop the spread of the imaginary Salmonella pandemic. Team members put raw data into spreadsheets and modeled it as graphs and charts to spot trends and determine the outbreak's severity. Combined with the first-person interviews and lab reports, "It was almost like playing the game 'Clue,'" said Seibold.

students in masks and gowns observe a patient
Midland's investigative team take notes on the condition of a simulated public-health victim during the "Outbreak" competition
As the time for writing a final report drew close on the last day of the simulation, Midland team participants were ready to conclude that one set of data pointed to an obvious conclusion. However, additional discussion led team members to a creative alternate theory of disease transmission. With less than an hour to spare, the team prepared and submitted a report based on the alternative line of reasoning.

When the awards were presented on the final day, three teams tied for a second-place finish. However, based on a multi-part scoring system that included extra points for writing a press release, judges cited MAA as the clear-cut winner for first place and awarded each team member a $1,000 scholarship.

“It was a great learning experience,” said competition participant Sarah Whitson. "I felt we were doing a good job analyzing the data, but with 14 schools in the competition I wasn't sure if we would win.”

Science teacher Jason Donovan and his award-
winning students display their scholarships and
awards following the competition.
An additional part of the event was Mathletics, a quiz show-format competition that challenged students’ knowledge of math history, problem-solving, and theory. Although tired after the multi-day pandemic simulation, the Midland team placed second in this phase of competition, with Midland team member Robby Willer dominating many matches for Midland with superior math problem solving skills and math history knowledge. The Mathletics win also netted Midland $750 for its math and science departments.

Robby Willer summarized the weekend by saying, "It was truly a unique experience and it's very rewarding to know we were able to win money and publicity for our school!"

“As a science teacher, I am pleased to see students applying classroom theory to real-life problem solving,” said Jason Donovan. “An event like this helps students realize that science can be both challenging and fun. At the same time, they can see how their God-given talents can be applied to careers in many scientific fields.”

(thanks to Jason and Melanie Donovan for being the sponsors and providing the pictures)