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Kevin Ig-Izevekhai placed seventh and KC Preska placed third at the state Brain Bee competition Feb. 9 at the Schol of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. Three other East Ridge students competed as well.

Harnessing their brain power

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There's an abundance of knowledge-based competitions out there for students, but one competition really gets to the root of the matter.

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The International Brain Bee has high school students answer questions about the brain.

"The brain is the key to the human body," East Ridge High School student KC Preska said.

A total of five East Ridge students competed in the state Brain Bee competition Feb. 9 at the School of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. The top 30 students in the state competed.

"I'm really proud of our school representation this year," East Ridge science teacher and Brain Bee advisor Meridith Duellman said.

The five students who competed were: Preska, Kevin-Ig-Izevekhai, Maddie Obele, James Kivel and Allie Kobe.

East Ridge's highest finishers were Preska, of Woodbury, who placed third and Ig-Izevekhai, of Woodbury, placed seventh.

Qualifying for the Brain Bee

Last month the five students who competed at the Brain Bee qualified for the state competition by answering a 90-question qualifying test on the computer. The questions were taken from a 70-page article titled "Brain Facts." A total of 11 East Ridge students took the qualifying test.

The questions ranged from a host of topics including physiology, diseases and development.

Preska said she decided to try out for the Brain Bee because she has an interest in science and specifically the brain.

"I've always been really interested in science, it's always been one of my strong subjects," she said. "The brain is interesting because we know so much about it, but there's still so much left to learn -- with every new bit of information we learn, we realize how much we don't know."

Ig-Izevekhai, who placed seventh in the Brain Bee last year, said he decided to go for it a second time because he still had a fascination with the brain.

"I realized that last year, I didn't cover as much as I could have," he said. "Plus, there's still so much to learn and the fascination was still there.

"This time around the competition was more of a learning experience than it was a competition experience."

In order to prepare for the state Brain Bee competition, Ig-Izevekhai said he studied at least an hour per night.

"Knowing how important it is, I made sure to set aside at least an hour a day," he said. "Nothing can get in the way of that."

In total, Ig-Izevekhai said he studied more than 20 hours.

Preska, on the other hand, took an independent study course with Duellman to prepare.

Preska studied the entire "Brain Facts" book, put together diagrams and models, and studied all aspects of the brain in detail.

Strong competitors

The Brain Bee, which is delivered in a Jeopardy-style format, has each contestant answer individual questions.

Both Preska and Ig-Izevekhai said they faced some stiff competition at the state Brain Bee.

"There's always someone there who is a good competitor, a formidable opponent," Ig-Izevekhai said. "All you can do is prepare as much as possible."

It was the semi-final round of questioning when Ig-Izevekhai narrowly missed the final round. The final round is for the top six competitors.

Ig-Izevekhai said the question that tripped him up was on aging.

"I didn't study it that much," he said. "That was my knockout question.

"It's a good place, but I feel that I could have done better -- there's always room for improvement."

Preska, who made it to the final round, was going head-to-head with two other competitors.

"I was neck and neck with these two other guys, so it was really intense," she said. "The guy who won, I think he has a photographic memory or something."

A future in the brain

Since Preska is a graduating senior, her Brain Bee experience has come to an end. However, her experience with the brain is just beginning.

Preska said she intends to study neuroscience and neurophysiology in college.

Ig-Izevekhai, who is a junior, said he might possibly try the Brain Bee again next year.

"Most likely I'll be back," he said.

In terms of college, Ig-Izevekhai said he intends to go to medical school. However, he is undecided as to whether he wants to go into neuroscience.

"I don't want to limit myself so early," he said.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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