ALBANY — As members of the Saratoga Springs High School’s Academic Team, students Isabelle Savage, Harrison Schuck, and Prav Mishra were no strangers to competition. But this summer, the trio had a chance for a slightly different competition than what they were used to.
The three students were selected to represent New York State in the Spectrum News Challenge, described as a “team-based quiz show based on the zeitgeist of what is in the headlines,” on Spectrum’s website. Teams from two different states compete to answer questions based on recent headlines, with the winner receiving a $500 prize per player.
The students’ episode was filmed this past August, but Savage and Schuck, who are both seniors at the high school, said the group initially applied for the show over two years ago. Mishra is now a freshman enrolled at Cornell University.
“We heard about this initially two summers ago,” said Savage. “We initially applied for the pilot episodes, and then you kind of had to try out, audition for those. It was really just an interview over Zoom, to see how well you worked on camera.”
The team was not selected for the pilot episodes but were contacted shortly after by Spectrum and secured a spot on the show.
The competition consists of four rounds, with each round worth progressively more points.
“The last question, they asked both teams at the same time, and both teams show their answer at the same time,” Savage said. “But for the three rounds before that, they would go to one school that would do the whole round, and then go to the other school and do the whole round.”
Correct answers are worth 10 points in the first round, 15 in the second, 20 in the third, and 500 points in the final round.
“So obviously the last question was the deciding question,” said Savage.
The students said they prepared by keeping up with the news as much as possible.
“I guess you just kind of watch the news,” said Schuck of the preparation. “It’s literally a news challenge.”
“A lot of headline-based questions, so it was just like scrolling through whatever news app you use and just kind of scanning stuff,” added Savage.
The questions covered topics such as the first released photo from the James Webb Space Telescope.
“One of them was about (President) Biden releasing photos of the James Webb Space Telescope,” Schuck said. “It was asking what telescope it was.”
The students said the experience of the Spectrum Challenge was quite different from their typical Academic Team competitions.
“Normally, what we do during the school year is we go out and do tournaments against a bunch of different teams,” Schuck said. “This one was just against one team. Although I guess this had more stakes behind it.”
“Because with the tournaments, you typically end up doing them across long periods of time, and you only play either one or a couple schools per place that you go,” said Savage. “Then you end up doing a finals round. That’s where the prizes are determined. This game is where the prizes are determined. It was definitely a different setup than what we’re used to, but we are used to the different rounds, different points, different layouts for the rounds.”
The Saratoga team did not come away with the win, losing to a group of students from Preble High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Despite that, the group said it was still an enjoyable experience.
“It was definitely a fun experience,” Savage said.
“It was interesting to see how TV works, and everything that’s behind it,” Schuck added.
The group also said the experience helped provide feedback for upcoming Academic Team competitions during the 2022-23 school year.
“There’s certain questions, both in Academic Team and the competition that we went to, where you’re able to discuss as a group. Kind of seeing it on the TV, I realized, we do not discuss for the full, allotted amount of time,” said Savage. “I think we could discuss more, both in Academic Team and using this experience.”
Both seniors said they hope to attend SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, with majors in nanoscale engineering.
“In the building, a lot of companies are there. IBM, Taiwan Silicon Manufacturing,” said Schuck. “There’s an entire computer chip fab in that building, which is like a half a billion dollars.”
“The industry is located right at the college,” Savage added. “The joke is like, you go to school on the second floor, and then you work on the third floor.”