Due to the switch to a virtual competition, freshman Eric Lechpammer created a slide presentation to accompany photos of his exhibit on “The Establishment of the European Union.” (Screenshot courtesy of Lechpammer)

Three students reach National History Day state finals

Seven high school students and nine middle schoolers from Country Day qualified for the National History Day state competition, with three reaching the final round.

Advancing on May 8 were junior Keshav Anand (documentary on “Dolly the Sheep: A Clone that Changed it All”), freshman Eric Lechpammer (exhibit on “The Establishment of the European Union”) and freshman Brynne Barnard-Bahn (website on “Rosalind Franklin: The Reluctant Feminist”).

However, none won awards in the final round, which was judged May 9-12.

History teacher Chris Kuipers said the projects were exceptional.

“(Lechpammer)’s exhibit was one of the best any of my students has ever created. (Barnard-Bahn) overcame the challenges of the new website builder to construct a really professional-looking website. (Anand) is a very talented filmmaker who has mastered the NHD documentary format over the past few years (as well),” he said.

The move to a virtual competition changed several aspects of the judging. For one, runners-up from county competitions were allowed to attend.

Anand, with six competitions under his belt, said this change made the competition more difficult. 

“Usually at state, there’s about 30 documentary (entries). This year, there were 42. I’ve never had to face this type of competition (before),” Anand said.

To Anand’s disappointment, interviews were eliminated this year.

“It allows you to express your ideas and to elaborate (on your entry),” he said.

Barnard-Bahn had mixed feelings about the removal of the interviews. 

“Maybe there was a part that got lost with (interviews) being taken away,” she said. “At the same time, I was happy that I didn’t have to do an interview, (as) I don’t like them that much.”

Kuipers agreed with both students but said removing interviews may have made the competition fairer.

“(This way), judges are solely focused on the actual work and are not unduly influenced by how comfortable or skilled a student is during the interview,” he said.

While documentaries, papers and websites were largely unaffected by the virtual format, performance and exhibit entries needed significant changes. 

Performances were judged solely on their scripts, while exhibits had to be accompanied by a slide presentation to show the facets of the entry instead of the physical entry. 

Lechpammer, who entered an exhibit, found this extra step helpful.

“They were judging what you wrote on the Google Slides, (so) you could make minor changes to your exhibit without having to reprint,” he said.

Lechpammer said he was happy with the result.

“I didn’t really expect to make it past the county competition, (so) when I found out I was a state finalist, I was elated, to say the least. I think things went incredibly well,” he said.

Barnard-Bahn agreed.

“I’m surprised, and I’m happy with how I did. I didn’t expect to make it that far,” she said.

—By Samhita Kumar