December 5, 2020

St. Louis high school students compete at World Affair Council of St. Louis WorldQuest Competition

What did the term ORTSAC mean for President John F. Kennedy and his cabinet members during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Some of the best-informed high school students in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area answered questions like this one at, Webster University’s Grant Gymnasium for the 11th annual WorldQuest Academic Competition.

ORTSAC is actually Castro spelled backwards, as in once Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro, and was the codename for a possible invasion of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The World’s Affair Councils of America (WACA), whose goal is to educate and engage Americans on the global issues, hosts the annual international knowledge competition, WorldQuest. Worldquest is active in over 40 local World Affairs Councils in 26 different states across the U.S. and attracts over 4,000 students every year, stated by the WACA.

Teams of three or four high school students represent their school and compete in seven rounds of ten questions each. The seven rounds are separated by categories that are different each year, this year they were: Middle East, current events, the Cuban Missile Crisis, China, World Geography, UN Millennium Goals: Environmental Sustainability, and Afghanistan and Pakistan.

When the St. Louis council began the WorldQuest competition it attracted only eight schools. This year over 30 St. Louis area schools brought teams made up combinations of students from grades 9-12.

Executive Director of the Worlds Affair Council of St. Louis Robert Fischer worked over 40 years with industrial technology companies like IBM. Now retired, he has dedicated the past nine years to foster education in America.

“I think (the competitions) serve a purpose in advocating citizen diplomacy and in giving people the knowledge and understanding to do that intelligently,” Fischer said.

Each year the three teams with the most number of correct answers are honored along with a Rookie of the Year award given to the top school among first-year competing schools. This year the Rookie of the Year and third place team received $250 cash, second place received $500 and first place moves on to the National WorldQuest competition in Washington D.C. The trip is all-expenses-paid for by the WACA and is held in April 2013.

Ladue Horton Watkins High School won the competition with a score of 58. Seniors Max Schindler, David Abraham, Mukund Subramania and junior Juilian Ding said they knew they had a good chance coming in since two of the participants were on the team last year. They missed by first place last year by only two points.

“This is pretty cool, we studied hard, so yea, it’s a good feeling,” Subramania said.

They used only a two hour “cram session” before the competition to study. Schindler said he looked forward to the trip to Washington D.C., especially for the free part.

The 2011 St. Louis World Quest Champions were from Oakville High School. One member of the team returned for this year’s competition.

“It was very surprising,” said junior Michael Meukhus as he recalled last year’s contest. “We just came expecting, ‘yea lets just have some fun’, then they announced us to be the winners and were like wow, that’s actually really cool.”

Oakville came in with a strategy this year and hoped to be victorious again after their first WorldQuest win in school history. This time they decided to each become an expert in a certain category of the seven that there selected months in advance.

Dan Carter, junior from Oakville, actually challenged a question in the Middle East category and was proven right. The question asked what is the second largest city in Syria and was a key battleground between nobles and the loyal forces of President Bahsar al-Assad.

The point was determined to be a free-bee for all teams after Carter proved that while Aleppo is the second largest city in Syria, it was not a key battleground.

Carter received applause from the crowd and fellow contestants after the correction was announced.

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