MANATEE -- A group of young brainiacs from Manatee County high school will be heading to Orlando to compete in the 28th annual Commissioner's Academic Challenge -- an intellectual competition that tests student's knowledge of everything from computer programming to mythology.
The six top-scoring students from around the county have formed a single team representing Manatee County to compete at the state level. The students -- Ben Reiss and Freddy De La Torre from Manatee High, Elikem Dorbu and Teerth Patel from Southeast High, and Shubbam Mathur and Alex O'Dell from Saint Stephen's Episcopal School -- were selected based on both team scores and individual merit.
The academic teams compete in a jeopardy-style competition in core subjects such as math, science, language arts and history.
Teams buzz in to answer questions and, much like Jeopardy, the contestants have to keep their wits about them while being fast on the buzzer.
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There are 60 questions with different point values.
"At the end of each round, there is a team question that we will work together on as a team," Reiss explained.
The team practices under the guidance of academic team coach and school
media specialist Christina Pommer.
Pommer says she has been preparing the students by quizzing them on material learned from their advanced placement and international baccalaureate classes.
"There is almost always a computer programming question and a Shakespeare question," Pommer said.
The team's members bring a well-rounded font of knowledge. Reiss says his strongest subject area is history. De La Torre and Dorbu are science buffs, Patel and Mathur identify math as their strong suits, and O'Dell says he is strong across all subjects -- with math being his weakest subject.
The team has been practicing for the April 18-21 competition with wireless buzzers that Manatee County won in a raffle at last year's competition.
The three-day competition will be held at Disney's Contemporary Resort. Students competing will receive three-day park hopper passes to the Disney Parks.
Dorbu and Patel say they are confident in their team's abilities. "I think we can shock them all," Dorbu said.
Students in the state competition will receive both team and individual scores.
The Manatee County academic team will compete in the large county division against teams from Brevard, Collier, Duval, Marion, Orange, Palm Beach, Polk, Sarasota and Pinellas counties.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081