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A cerebral competition

There are plenty of knowledge competitions where students need to use their brains to answer test questions, but the Brain Bee takes it one step further.

They must use their brains to answer questions about the brain.

East Ridge High School sophomore Kevin Ig-Izevekhai has qualified for the state Brain Bee competition on Feb. 10 at the University of Minnesota.

"I've always kind of been interested in the body, first of all, and especially the brain," he said. "We, as human beings, have the most complex brain system, so the whole fact that it all comes from a basis that is really so simple, and then becomes so complex is fascinating -- and so are the things we are capable of."

On Jan. 28, Ig-Izevekhai qualified for the state competition by answering a 90-question qualifying test on a computer. The questions were taken from a 70-page articled titled "Brain Facts."

The questions ranged from information on morphology to physiology to diseases to drug use effects to development.

Ig-Izevekhai was one of the top 30 out of the 300 students in Minnesota who took the qualifying exam.

"I felt like I wasn't prepared enough," he said. "But, I guess I came out OK."

Ig-Izevekhai said he decided to go out for the Brain Bee competition because, not only is he fascinated by the brain, but he hopes to one day go into the medical field, and he said the Brain Bee was a great way to get started.

"I want to go into medical school and maybe study to become a neurologist, and the fact that the Brain Bee affects my career hopes directly is great," he said. "There're science clubs and all that, but nothing is as direct as studying the brain and answering questions about it."

Ig-Izevekhai said he is interested in the medical field because he wants to be able to help people.

"When I see someone in distress or see somebody with a physical condition, and I'm not able to help them -- I truly don't like that," he said. "As much knowledge as I feel I have, I should be able to use it to change people's lives."

To prepare for the qualifying round of the Brain Bee competition, Ig-Izevekhai spent roughly a month going through the "Brain Facts" article. Ig-Izevekhai said he tried to study five pages a night.

"I just took it piece-by-piece because it's a really long, challenging read," he said. "I actually wanted to learn what I was reading, instead of just cramming stuff in."

Ig-Izevekhai said the most challenging parts of studying were trying to learn and understand the many brain disorders, medications, abbreviations and terms.

"It was all new material to me," he said.

As the competition progresses, additional texts are used for the Brain Bee competition, so Ig-Izevekhai will have to keep studying on the brain.

"It's always the same brain, but maybe it's a new publication that they use," he said. "I always feel like I should go and review it because there is nothing that I know completely, so I'll just try and keep my mind open and answer as best as I can."

The state competition at the School of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, is more of a Jeopardy-style contest where each participant answers individual questions.

Ig-Izevekhai said he is excited about the state Brain Bee competition, and hopeful that he will continue to move on in the competition, but he's also nervous.

"I don't want to be negative, but I always get a little nervous before something big," he said. "But, I feel that if I prepare well enough, I don't need to be nervous.

"I'm kind of blessed to be in this situation, so I'm going to take advantage of it -- I'm just going to take it as it comes along."

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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