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High schoolers pull all-nighter for robotics, cybersecurity, video game competition | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware | #hacking | #aihp


Cheverus High School students Hayden Harkett, second from right, and Brody Gifford, right, discuss League of Legends, the first event of the all-night Thomas Cup on Friday in Waterville. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — About 90 high schoolers from across the state pulled an all-nighter Friday, staying up for an annual competition involving a series of challenges ranging from overnight video game sessions to crime scene analysis.

The Thomas Cup is an annual event hosted by Thomas College in which teams of high schoolers are invited to compete against one another in a 13-hour marathon of challenges. The event is unique because it takes place overnight and introduces students to fields and careers they may not have known about otherwise, organizer Michael Duguay said.

“These are activities that students normally wouldn’t get a chance to have a competition,” he said. “It’s rare that you have these venues for computer science and robotics and stuff. It’s for over 12 hours, which seems pretty rugged, but it’s a blast. It’s so much fun.”

High school students react Friday while playing League of Legends during the first event of the annual Thomas Cup in Waterville. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Areas of competition this year included robotics, cybersecurity, rocket science and a League of Legends tournament organized by Thomas College’s esports team. Eighteen teams competed this year, with just over 90 students making the trip from Bucksport, Dexter, Skowhegan and elsewhere, according to Program Coordinator Kerry Smart.

The team “Supah Hunks” show off their trophy Saturday as winners of this year’s Thomas Cup at Thomas College in Waterville. Members include Cheverus and Greely students, Brody Gifford, Corbin Richter, Andrew Flanders, Hayden Harkett, and Alexander Wharton, who will each receive a $10,000 scholarship to Thomas College. Thomas College

Rather than having teams specialize in one area or another, the competition is structured with a point system that requires students to excel at each and every challenge, Smart said.

“There’s a score sheet, and you get so many points for figuring out how to program your robot, for completing the crime scene challenge,” Smart said. “The teams have to do well in all the competitions, not just one or two of them.”

The winning team this year was composed of students from Cheverus and Greely high schools in Cumberland County. Dubbed the “Supah Hunks,” the team consisted of Brody Gifford, Corbin Richter, Andrew Flanders, Hayden Harkett and Alexander Wharton.

A team from Dexter Regional High School placed second, while a club from Forest Hills Regional High School finished third.

Members of the winning team receive $10,000 scholarships if they attend Thomas College, while second and third place will receive $8,000 and $6,000 scholarships, respectively.

The team “Supah Hunks,” composed of Cheverus and Greeley high school students, huddle up Friday before the annual Thomas Cup hosted by Thomas College in Waterville. The event invites teams of high schoolers to compete against one another in a 13-hour marathon of challenges. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Although this was the ninth time the Thomas Cup has been held, the challenges students face change each year. One year students may have to design a carbon neutral home, the next they may have to build a working model rocket from the ground up.

Organizers take special care to create immersive and engaging challenges, Duguay said, with the end goal of getting students interested in science, technology, engineering and math careers.

Duguay had a large hand in helping develop this year’s crime scene analysis challenge, which he said was largely based on real-life events captured by the NBC show “Dateline.” The ever-evolving nature of the Thomas Cup and its challenges make it just as much fun for the organizers as the students, Duguay said.

“This year is kind of a murder-for-hire concept, and there’s a really unique twist on the theme that we worked in,” he said Friday. “We’ve taken two different crime scenes and put them together. It was really fun to create.

“You can tell how much effort we put in — I hope,” he added, laughing.

The competition also includes a three-hour video game tournament in which students play one another in the popular game League of Legends.

Owen Vining, head of Thomas’ esports team, said Friday that the tournament has become a critical part of the college’s recruitment efforts and many high schoolers’ favorite part of the Thomas Cup. Some students brought specially-built computers to play in the event, many decorated with flashing LED lights and anime stickers.

“We’ve been doing League (of Legends) tournaments for the last several years now,” Vining said. “It gets a lot of kids excited, which makes sense because it’s a fun game.”

While this year’s competition started late and ended early due to internet troubles on Thomas’ campus, Duguay said it was one of the best-attended in recent years.

“We’ve had around 80 or 90 kids each year the last few years,” he said. “I wouldn’t say the event is growing as much as it is staying strong. I kind of like that better.”

High school students play League of Legends on Friday during the annual Thomas Cup, an overnight technology and innovation competition held annually at Thomas College in Waterville. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

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