Sisters team up for a win in Web contest

<a href="Julie Sharp, The Beach Reporter, October 16, 2008
Two sisters who were looking for a way to share their experience of a tragedy in India found a Web site design competition to document their venture and ended up winning an award, a trip to San Francisco and laptop computers.
Alka Nath, a sophomore at Mira Costa High School, and Abha Nath, an eighth-grader at MBMS, came across the annual international ThinkQuest global Web site building competition and decided it would be fun to enter. They said they were looking for a way to publicize the continuing effects of a 1984 gas leak in Bhopal, India. During a January 2007 family trip to the area, the sisters took photos of victims of the gas leak and used their personal experience as well as documented facts as the subject matter for their Web site titled, Bhopal, the Continuing Tragedy.
They satisfied competition requirements by getting two other team members from northern California, so work on the project would be done through instant messaging, Web-sharing programs and by phone; and they recruited a required teacher-coach, MBMS seventh-grade science teacher Patricia Ware. “She knew the software, and I knew she could help with our content,” said the elder Nath, who had Ware as a teacher in middle school.
“I said I would do it, and I told them right away that they probably didn’t have a chance of winning, but that they would be doing it for the experience,” said Ware, who ended up pleasantly surprised with the group’s third-place finish.
From left: Alka Nath, Patricia Ware and Abha Nath at the recent international ThinkQuest global Web site competition awards ceremony in San Francisco. (photo courtesy of Patricia Ware)
The competition is sponsored by the company Oracle and included students ages 12 to 19. Ware’s reality-check warning for the girls was based on the fact that for them, unlike many other entrants, the project was not part of classroom instruction – it was independent of the schools.
Also the sheer number of entrants from all over the world seemed to be an obstacle.
For the 2008 competition, there were 972 teams of four from 60 countries with students from Canada, China, India, Japan and Egypt, to name a few, and two from Manhattan Beach, U.S.A.
The Nath sisters said they really did not have much time to spend on their self-assigned project mostly because of their regular schoolwork and homework, various activities and friends. So they spent their Thanksgiving break, winter break and ski week grinding away on the project.
“Twice we started the project, but it wasn’t good enough. We had better ideas,” said Alka Nath. She explained that the whole project took about eight months with each team member assigned different tasks. The finished product or final version took about one month to complete, ready for the April entry date. In May they found out they won third place in their category and in September they went on an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco, courtesy of Oracle, to receive their award.
Both sisters agreed all the work was worth it, but they could not agree if working in a group made the project easier or harder. “It was really hard work, but working as a team, in a group, made it easier,” said the younger Nath. Her sister felt differently, “The process of working as a group was difficult. It’s harder to come to a finished product,” said Alka Nath.
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