Three small groups of elementary school students huddled together Tuesday night, conferring over problems such as "What type of rock is formed in layers?", "What is the prime factorization of 184?", and "Name the document written by Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves."
At a moderator's prompting, each team of four to six children held up a small dry-erase board with their answer written on it.
The team with the most correct answers at the end of 18 questions was declared the winner of the Academic Challenge Superintendent's Cup competition, sponsored by Fayette County Public Schools and One Community One Voice.
A team of four second- and third-graders from Meadowthorpe Elementary — including Jimmy Chen, Royce Andrews, Amira Al-Suud and Eliza Snow — took first place in the primary competition.
"They worked so hard, and to see it pay off for them is just immense," said Natasha Al-Suud, who coached the team. "Tomorrow at school they'll be heroes."
Kentucky State University provided scholarships valued at $20,000 over a four-year period to each of the primary winners.
Teams from Ashland Elementary and Deep Springs Elementary took second and third place, respectively.
A team of four fourth- and fifth-graders from Rosa Parks Elementary got all 18 questions correct to win first place in the intermediate finals. The team consisted of Ava Chen, Jason Wang, Anish Agarwal and Emma Falliyi.
"I'm so happy," said Jason Wang, a fifth-grader who said he wants to be a professional golfer when he grows up. "It's my first scholarship."
He and the rest of his team received scholarships valued at $12,000 over four years from Morehead State University.
A team of students from Dixie Elementary took second, and a Cardinal Valley Elementary team took third in the intermediate competition.
The three primary and three intermediate teams had emerged as the top teams at the county's Principal's Cup competition March 9.
In past years, the Academic Challenge competition was held at one site, but because of the program's increasing popularity, this year's preliminary competition was held at three locations.
Teams from all 34 of the city's public elementary schools participated, and many schools fielded more than one team.
Thousands of parents turned out for those events.
P.G. Peeples, president and CEO of the Urban League of Lexington, commented during the awards ceremony that he never thought he'd see such high attendance at a public schools event "that didn't involve bouncing, throwing or kicking a ball."
In addition to the group competition, individual fourth- and fifth-graders also competed in math and science and essay writing. On Tuesday night, those winners were awarded scholarships from the University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, Georgetown College and Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
Christina Givens said she encouraged her son Jalen Givens to participate in the Academic Challenge "just to broaden his horizons."
Jalen, a fifth-grader at Dixie, also plays baseball, basketball and football.
"We needed something academically to round it all out," Christina Givens said. "He loves it. He's been doing it since second grade."
Ramie Salem, a fifth-grader who is on Jalen's team, said he loves it too.
The students attend weekly practices to prepare.
"It's, like, challenging," he said. "It's not easy like school. They teach you hard stuff."