It can be tough being the new guys, but the Design Science High School Academic Decathlon team is taking it in stride.
On Saturday, Design Science will compete against eight other high schools in their new division at the 34th annual Fresno County Academic Decathlon at Fresno State, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The competition, which will include high schools in other divisions, will continue Feb. 6 at Central High School East’s campus from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Schools from the central San Joaquin Valley have competed for years and often done well in the rigorous academic competition, with University High School of Fresno winning the national competition in the small-school category for nine years in a row.
Design Science only has competed a few times and will compete for the first time in Division III after winning the regional Division IV competition last year.
Other schools in Division III are McLane, Reedley, Selma, Firebaugh, Roosevelt, Clovis West, Clovis East and Clovis North.
Design Science senior Nathanael Torres, 17, feels confident about the upcoming competition.
“Last year, it was like, nerve-wracking to walk in there, especially to see the people who looked like they knew what they were doing,” Torres said. “I feel good (about this year’s competition).”
26The number of Fresno County high schools expected to compete this year in Academic Decathlon
While preparing for the competition, team members have had to deal with the unusual circumstances of their school, said 15-year-old Gurkamalpreet Singh, a sophomore.
“We take college classes at the actual Fresno City College campus,” Gurkamalpreet said. “So, the schedule of each student is not the same. It’s been extremely difficult to schedule times where everyone could be there.
“We’ve come up with a plan where we know not everyone’s going to be there, so we deal with that and let people come on different days,” Gurkamalpreet said.
When students first arrive at Design Science, they take an accelerated high school curriculum for their freshman and sophomore years, said Lisa Portela, Design Science’s Academic Decathlon coach. After that, they spend two years taking Fresno City College classes before they graduate, in some cases completing associate degrees during that time.
Design Science will send two teams, each with eight people, to this year’s competition.
The decathlon will cover various topics; this year’s theme for the curriculum is India.
“There’s actually a curriculum put out by the United States Academic Decathlon – they write and publish the curriculum and all of the students follow that,” Portela said.
The curriculum covers art, mathematics, science, economics, social science, music and literature.
The California State Decathlon will be March 17-20 in Sacramento. The National Decathlon will be April 28-30 in Anchorage, Alaska.
The music and literature in the curriculum are from India.
“My heritage is from India,” Gurkamalpreet said. “Personally, I have to ask my parents a lot of the stuff and they do know some of it – it really helps.”
Gurkamalpreet, who speaks Punjabi, also has helped the team with the pronunciation of Indian subject matter in the curriculum, Portela said.
During the first Saturday of the competition, students will write an essay, do a seven-minute interview and give a speech.
“They are expected to prepare a 3 1/2 - to four-minute speech on any topic they wish – it does not have to be India-specific or specific to anything they’ve studied in the content packet,” Portela said. Students are also asked to do a two-minute impromptu speech.
“I’ll be doing a speech on how YouTube is taking over media,” Gurkamalpreet said. “And how it’s preferred much more over regular TV these days, especially in the new generation where it’s very prominent.”
Speeches by Design Science students have covered everything from Satanism to space travel.
The second Saturday of the decathlon on Feb. 6 consists of multiple-choice assessments in seven subjects, followed by the Super Quiz event, which is open to the public.
The overall winner of the Fresno County Academic Decathlon, along with a limited number of invited teams, will compete in Sacramento at the California State Decathlon held in March.
Academic Decathlon Super Quiz will be Feb. 6
Fresno County: 3:30 p.m., Central High School East gymnasium, 3535 N. Cornelia Ave., Fresno
Kings County: 2:30 p.m., Lemoore High School, 101 E. Bush St., Lemoore
Madera County: 2:45 p.m., Madera South High School, 705 W. Pecan Ave., Madera.
Tulare County: 2 p.m., Tulare County Office of Education Administration and Conference Center, 6200 Mooney Blvd., Visalia.