WATERVILLE — Arianna Barley is not one who typically competes in any type of event, so she was surprised at how much she enjoyed taking part in the 6th Annual Thomas Cup, a competition for high school students that involves science, technology, engineering and innovation.

A sophomore at Waterville Senior High School, Barley, 15, was one of more than 100 students from schools around the state who took part Friday and Saturday in the event, hosted by Thomas College in Waterville.

The students, including those who represented teams from Waterville, Messalonskee High School in Oakland and Gardiner Area High School, solved problems in categories including cyber defense, esports, computer science, robotics and crime scene investigation.

Thomas Cup

Jasmine Robinson, Noah Williams and Braedyn Stockmar participate in the 2021 Thomas Cup, held virtually this year. Contributed screenshot

While the competition focuses on technology, participants need more than just technical skills — the best teams combined a mix of project management, innovation, creativity, teamwork and leadership to overcome challenges and defeat opponents, according to officials.

A Winslow High School team won the first Thomas Cup in 2015.

This year, the competition had to be held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic — not an easy task — but Barley and other students said the opportunity for socialization was welcome and fun.

“It was, honestly, overall, just a great opportunity and you get to meet new people and compete and see their skills,” Barley said Sunday. “It was so much fun to participate, and a great opportunity to represent my school.”

Barley was a member of the “Waterville Worms” team. Waterville also had a team called “Waterville Senior High School Computer Science II.” Barley worked on the esports challenge, which involved traveling around a virtual island and trying to find hidden treasure.

“It was a super simple and noncomplicated game,” she said, “and it was a real fun experience.”

Thomas Cup

Contributed screenshot

Barley is a student in Jamee Luce’s computer science class at Waterville Senior High School, and Luce was the Waterville teams’ coach. An artist who sketches and paints, Barley said she hopes to attend college for graphic design because she is interested in becoming a tattoo artist. That profession, she said, involves computers.

“The tattoo industry uses virtual drawing apps to make their tattoos,” she said.

The team from Maine School of Science & Mathematics in Limestone was the overall winner of the competition, which awarded up to $10,000 in scholarships to Thomas College for members of the winning team, but first and second places were awarded in all categories.

The Messalonskee High School team, also coached by Luce, who coaches a robotics team at that school, placed second in the Thomas Cup crime scene investigation challenge.

Luce and Gardiner High’s team facilitator, Debra Butterfield, said Sunday that Thomas College put a lot of work into the event and made it accessible to all students, regardless of skill level.

“Logistically, it was really well done, really well organized in terms of the student experience,” Luce said.

Butterfield, a teacher-librarian at Gardiner High, said she could not say enough about Jim DeLorie and Amanda Nguyen, who organized the event for Thomas.  The weekend event was the last challenge in a series of five competitions held in December and January, with nearly 200 students participating during week-long challenges in preparation of the final event. Students got to hear from a Central Maine Power Co. representative and an expert at Microsoft Corp.

Thomas Cup

Contributed screenshot

“That was so inspirational to them, to have an expert in the field be able to help them,” Butterfield said.

Delorie and Nguyen sent an email Saturday to participants, thanking them for their involvement. It read: “This was a VERY close competition, and we just want to reiterate how impressed we were with each of you for all the perseverance, teamwork, critical thinking, and creativity that went into your work on these challenges. Congratulations and thank you!”

The Gardiner team, with members Jasmine Robertson, Braedyn Stockmar, Noah Williams, was “Tigers Create!

Waterville Worms members were Barley, Malaki Baker, Kaydan Doughty and Buffy Courier.

The Waterville Computer Science Team II members were Robert Stillkey, Eva Burdin, Donald Riopelle and Darius Seavey.

The Messalonskee team included McGlauflin, Owen Hargrove, Ryland Woodside, Ethan Labbe and Ian McCurdy.

Luce, the Waterville and Messalonskee coach, noted the event was sponsored by businesses looking to employ people with skills such as those used by students in the Thomas Cup.

“It was framed as a fun and cool experience,” Luce said, “but it’s also developing skills that are important for their futures.”

She explained that students had 24 hours to complete four tasks and an additional task that was optional.

In the crime scene investigation challenge, students were given clues and tools to solve crimes.

In the innovation challenge, students were asked to use simple items found around the house, such as plastic cups and popsicle sticks, to build a catapult.

In the robotics task, they were asked to program a robot.

And in the esports “mind craft challenge,” they needed to find the hidden treasure.

Messalonskee senior Aiden McGlauflin, 17, was part of the five-member “Infinite Loop” team. McGlauflin did the robotics challenge, and he and his teammates also did the esports event. Some students stayed up all night Friday and into Saturday morning working on the problems.

“You had to take a code from a preexisting library they had set up and tell the robot to draw a shape,” McGlauflin said of the robotics challenge. “At first, it was a very grueling process because it’s a coding language I’m unfamiliar with. It took a few hours to get used to writing things. I finished up at about 3 in the morning, and decided to take a nap until 6.”

McGlauflin said he plans to major in plant biology and/or architecture when he attends college. He has applied to several schools.

Other schools that took part in the Thomas Cup: Belfast Area High School, Casco Bay High School, Dexter Regional High School, Freeport High School, Lewiston High School, Marshwood High School, Massabesic High School, Old Town High School, Piscataquis Community Secondary School, Ridgefield High School, Spring Grove High School, Waldo County Tech Center — Region 7, Waynflete School, Westbrook High School, Westbrook Regional Technology Center, Windham High School and Yarmouth High School.

Along with Thomas College and Thomas College Esports, the event’s sponsors were Central Maine Power Co., Educate Maine, Unum, Microsoft Corp., Project Login, WEX Inc. and AT&T.

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