By Meagan Campbell
They built the sturdiest spaghetti tower, memorized the most scores of jazz music, and transformed a single pack of playing cards into a castle with 15 balconies. Four scientists from JASCO Applied Sciences, a marine science consulting firm in Halifax, beat 39 other teams on Saturday at the first ever Brain War, a problem-solving competition organized by the Discovery Centre.
“A lot of our hobbies came in handy,” said Terry Deveau, a member of the JASCO team. “For example, one of my hobbies is deciphering prehistoric cave paintings, and one of the tasks was exactly that.”
The competition, which was sponsored by Nova Scotia Community College and Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities, was aimed at promoting holistic thinking and teamwork. Deveau and the other three JASCO team members, Nicole Chorney, Mikhail Zykov and Cristopher Whitt, competed in 25 challenges against teams from high schools, colleges, universities and corporations across Nova Scotia.
“This is the future,” said Steven Smith, co-chair of the event and the dean of science at Saint Mary’s. “They had to collaborate, use every part of their heads, and have fun.”
The JASCO team weaved between stations at the McNally Theatre Auditorium at Saint Mary’s, where the event was held. They were tasked with everything from walking in a straight line while blindfolded, to creating a tower with a package of raw spaghetti that could hold five dollars worth of nickels.
Their creativity kicked in when Zykov, faced with a Rubik’s Cube, decided to break it apart and reassemble it instead of solving it the traditional way. Later, the team designed a hypothetical “Iron Woman” suit, which was so advanced that the wearer would not be able to know that she had it on.
“We couldn’t be bounded by traditional thinking,” said Deveau. “We figured that out early.”
The JASCO team will compete for a trophy in the final round on Thursday, facing up against the teams who finished in the next four ranks: Horton High School, WHW Architects, Dalhousie Industrial Engineering, and Devon-Aire manufacturers (known as the Devon-Aire Splendid Minions for the purpose of the competition).
Brain War also acts as a fundraiser for the Discovery Centre: registration fees range from $250 for high schools to $1,000 for corporations, and judges are all volunteers. The event, which will be held at the same venue, is open to the public.
“We’re pumped, but it’ll be nerve-racking,” said Deveau. “We’ve got a position to defend.”