Students from two Illawarra schools came home victorious after winning the top prizes in the international Tournament of Minds competition.
Teams from Smith's Hill High School and Edmund Rice College made their way to the finals of the prestigious problem-solving competition in Melbourne on Saturday, October 21.
Smith's Hill language teacher Amy Kang said she was proud of the group of seven students.
"Committed to growth and always looking for new opportunities to improve themselves, they challenged themselves continuously," Ms Kang said.
Smith Hill's Year 10 student Cynthia Cai was one of the team members competing in the arts section.
The group was challenged to pick two places (fictional or real) and present a proposal for why they should be connected with a tunnel filled with street art.
"We picked two metaphorical places: the quiet place, so the white room, and the noisy place," Cynthia said.
The white room was a solitary space for artists, while the noisy place was filled with people.
"It kind of contrasted the idea of being alone versus being lonely. As well as trusting oneself and trusting others."
Tejasvi Ranjith, of Year 10, said ToM was an opportunity to make friends across different grades and schools.
"We wouldn't have ever met if we didn't do this competition," Tejasvi said.
Despite not winning the regional competition, the Edmund Rice team was presented with a wild card to compete in the international championship.
Edmund Rice Year 8 student Isaac Mitrevski said they were given just three hours to prepare a drama representation of the Butterfly Effect, which is "essentially a flow-on effect from something that happens that's quite minor".
The team came up with a drama about a bug on the bottom of the food chain being killed, which over five years led to a United Nations meeting about famine and economic ramifications.
"Slowly it goes from people talking about it at a dinner table ... to being on the local, national and international news and finally at the UN," said.
"It slowly went from simply being a bug dying to a species collapsing and how this affected the food chain."
The school's facilitator Emma Shumack said she had both pride and delight in watching the students learn and listen to the judges' feedback.
"They really effectively showed the butterfly effect in obviously the social, political, economic impacts of that, but also they were really creative in how they displayed it," she said.
"They were able to devise, script, write, rehearse and put together all of that within three hours."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.