Put to the test

Some of the State's brightest young minds will test their problem-solving skills this weekend, and a team from St Laurence's is up to the challenge.

St Laurence's won their category in the regional Tournament of the Minds, and now they're heading to Sydney for the NSW finals.

The team of seven Year 4 to year 6 Forbes students was chosen to represent a region encompassing Orange, Bathurst, Dubbo and beyond in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) category.

The first part of the students' challenge at a regional level was to develop a system for collecting and storing DNA from five endangered animals - within a set of constraints.

Given six weeks, the team designed and built a model carousel. It was made predominantly from recycled materials including cardboard and a fidget spinner, with 3D printed model animals.

Then it was off to regionals to present their system and face the second part of the test: a spontaneous challenge, which they were given just five minutes to work on and one minute to present.

Spontaneous challenges can come from any of the Tournament of Mind disciplines including language literature, social sciences, and the arts.

The team was presented with a scenario - a dinner party stunned into silence - and asked to speak about why the diners were gathered, why they went silent, and what happened next.

Given the creative thinking challenge, the Forbes group set about their "think, pair and share" methodology.

The students explained they each share their ideas, then choose one or possibly two and brainstorm those.

Teacher Jess Bailey worked with the students in the lead-up to the challenge to develop their problem solving and team-work skills, but once the challenges were laid down she had to step back.

Competition at a regional level was intense, Ms Bailey said, and just one school from each of the competition's disciplines was chosen to go through to the State level.

In Sydney this weekend, the team will complete a three-hour challenge and another five-minute one over two fairly solid days.

The students agree Tournament of Minds is "great fun" and there is a mix of nerves and excitement as they prepare for the trip. We wish them all the best!

Interest in being part of the Tournament of Minds team was high, and St Laurence's is now looking at hosting an in-school competition that will give more students the chance to take on this type of challenge and develop their problem-solving skills.