Q. What type of student enjoys USAT the most?
A. Anyone who has enthusiasm for building things, writing plays, playing games, answering trivia questions, or thinking on their feet will love USAT. Students of all ability levels are appropriate, because the entire teams always in involved in USAT solutions and the strongest teams have members with a wide range of strengths. Even though one student may be great at drawing backdrops, and someone else is good at complex math problems, we aim to make the program diverse in order to find something to interest and stimulate every learner.
Q. What’s the real purpose of USAT?
A. The real product of USAT competition is personal growth. Students learn to think outside the box, to find ways to apply creative solutions to real world problems and they have positive educational experiences that last a lifetime. These “triathletes” have to take positive risks and approach each new problem with creativity and a sense of humor, and this is done within a supportive environment so any stumbling block can turn into a success and a chance to confidence in their academic and problem-solving abilities. They learn so much by stretching themselves, and by taking a chance! We always build “safety nets” into USAT events so that even if one member of the team is stuck, the student can ask their teammates for help or use a creative way to go on tackling each Meet challenge. And because USAT is a competition, they also learn that sometimes they aren’t going to come in first place; but only through these kinds of experiences can children become poised and balanced adults.
Q. Who coaches USAT?
A. Teachers, principals, parents and other volunteers all serve as USAT coaches. Programs are almost exclusively run through school districts, although certain other groups, such as after-school programs, magnet programs, and parent groups, sponsor teams. A Training Tape and Materials are available to help coaches become familiar with the program. All Meets are hosted by experienced USAT coaches, who use the official Program Manual rules and forms.
Q. How can I get USAT started in my area?
A. Start a team or host an Invitational Meet! Everything comes in a kit from the National Office, so pick a date, invite colleagues from neighboring districts to bring teams, and watch students bloom as they wend their way through this mental footrace! Visit the About page for contact information or you can download an Invitational Interest form.
Q. Where can I find practice materials?
A. There are descriptions on the Three Events page of MindSprints, Face-Off and P.A.R.T.Y. in a box, Samples of Events and the S-C-A-M-P-E-R Sheet are available to download. Throughout the season you can also read our blog that will provide more tips for coaches and students.
Additionally, almost any game or learning activity can be modified to become an Academic Triathlon challenge in the hands of a creative coach! Students gain from shared game-playing experiences, and team-building is important to the success of the team. Also, teams that get along and practice positive assertions usually score better than those teams who are not as experienced in brainstorming techniques. To help your students and coaches prepare, we will post brain-storming prompts throughout the season on our Facebook page. You can receive these updates by clicking “Like” on the right sidebar.
Q. What about the element of competition in learning?
A. Adding a competitive component to these activities helps teams strive to do their best. Unlike some other thinking skills competitions that offer only one chance to compete, Triathletes know they’ll play at least three Round Robin scrimmages, at which they’ll learn to do even better, to employ new strategies, and to learn, along with so many other students, that there’s truth to the adage that there’s more than one way to skin a cat!
Q. What about postponed Meets?
A. If a Meet must be postponed, all coaches talk about a make-up date. A “snow date” is chosen each year. Regular Season Dates ensure the security of questions used.
Q. What do the team fees cover?
A. Each team of 5-7 students is guaranteed four chances to compete, and many move on to the final competition in the spring. Each challenge must be individually written, tested, formatted, printed, and shipped. In addition, team fees support production and implementation of the annual Minnesota State competition, which includes renting the space, paying for security and cleanup, hiring a photographer, and providing snacks for our volunteers and competitors. Fees also help cover ribbons, certificates, and trophies for the top teams.
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