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Knight Times

Siyaa’s Amazing AcDec Accomplishment


On January 13th, 2024, ACP’s Academic Decathlon competed in the Basha Invitational, an event in which numerous high schools all over Arizona competed in a Decathlon. One such competitor was sophomore Siyaa Poddar, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing about her experience during the event.

She explained that on the first night, they gave prepared and impromptu speeches and had an interview with a panel of judges who scored their responses. On the second day, they all took tests covering seven subjects related to this year’s theme of Humanity and Technology. After testing, they attended SuperQuiz, an event where three members of a team worked together to answer questions related to the various subjects in under seven seconds. Once all of the events were completed, they attended an award ceremony to see how each school performs. Siyaa was one of few people that received a perfect score on her essay. When asked about how it felt having achieved a perfect score on her essay, she expressed that “I honestly thought there was a mistake in the grading and that I had gotten a 100 instead of a 1,000, but I am really grateful to have gotten that score. Achieving that score really shocked me and gave me insight on how I should approach the event in the future! I also think this score gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities and helped motivate me to prepare harder for the next competition because it showed me that I am able to be successful within my division and where my strengths lie.”

The AcDec team write their essays two weeks before the competition. They’re given a sheet of paper listed with three predetermined prompts relating to a fact from any of the seven subjects excluding math then are given 50 minutes to compose and write their essay. Between the three prompts provided, she chose the science prompt, which asked about the scientific background behind pain and its transduction. The prompt emphasized the analysis of why pain is necessary and how the brain interprets these feelings.

She explains that “I chose this prompt because, of the three, I felt like I had the most evidence for my analysis. I chose to take a very scientific tone with my paper, first trying to get all of the information into my essay and then going back within the last ten minutes to add analysis and a cohesive introduction and conclusion. It is very easy to get overwhelmed with choices for AcDec when it comes to essays, but I find focusing on what you know and emphasizing points that you are certain about often bodes for a better essay than an overly simplified explanation for a prompt that might seem easier.” Initially, she joined AcDec because she saw the protagonist of one of her favorite movies competing in it and thought that if they could do it, then she could do it, too. She recalls that “The movies definitely made AcDec out to be about a cool jacket and a shiny buzzer and I did not anticipate just how much AcDec would entail, but I have stuck with AcDec because of the lifelong skills it has built and the experiences it has brought forth.”

When asked about what advice she would give someone interested in joining AcDec, she responded with “The advice I would give someone looking to join AcDec would be to start planning early and see it more as a challenge. The format of testing and resource guides can definitely make it feel like you have to be insanely gifted to be successful, but it really is just a competition with yourself. I would really push anyone interested to get involved and try it out because at least one of the ten subjects will definitely interest you!”

Competitions are a great way for students to challenge themselves and conquer unfamiliar territory, additionally serving as an opportunity to bond with their peers and grant them new experiences. Such events could not be brought together without the help of Mrs. Turner. Coaches like her are part of the reason students like Siyaa are able to demonstrate how AcDec is full of talented students who will dominate the playing field in academic competitions. Go Knights!

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