Tried and Tested: Meet Keystone’s Student Achievers in Global Contests

By Communications

Keystone Academy students have been recognized once more in academic and co-curricular competitions in China and abroad. Let’s take a closer look into the inspirations of our young achievers and ask them how a Keystone education has motivated them to go the extra mile.


Think Big, Go Global

Citizens of the medieval-style Justice City have been enjoying a harmonious life under their King and the Pope until the evil Witch arrives and causes massive suffering. One resident, who has experienced a lifetime of hardships, joins a campaign to eliminate the Witch lurking in an underground city.

This concept comes from one of the two Keystone student teams that participated in the national rounds of China Thinks Big (CTB), a research and innovation competition run by the Harvard College Association for US-China Relations. Both won the second prize and ranked in the top 8% among 1,500 participating groups in China.

Team Electric Lavender, the creator of Justice City, says the protagonist resident—controlled by players in the real world—sets out to uncover the shocking truths in Justice City, where the Witch is expanding a dark domain. Team leader and eleventh grader Nicole Wei adds she was initially reluctant to enter the contest with a game design since they lacked knowledge of game-based processes.

“But I think the key to success in this kind of competition is effective cooperation,” she adds, “because it urges participants to push forward the project and achieve results they have never imagined.” She says each of her teammates focused on their capabilities while supporting everyone in the process, giving them “the impetus to reach our goals that previously seemed too ambitious.”

Meanwhile, another contest has stretched the imagination of several Keystone students. Selina Ma (G11), Hongyu Qian, Apollo Yang, Jessica Zeng, and James Zu (all G10) are now getting ready for the final round of the International Linguistics Olympiad China (IOLC), which will happen in mid-June in East China. They placed high in the opening rounds that consisted of topics on minority languages and language systems.

This competition tests the logical thinking ability of young linguists through language-based puzzles derived from spoken and written communication forms around the world.

Selina, who was also a member of one Keystone team that participated in CTB, says her IOLC experience will help her engage further into a project she is currently working on.


Getting Over Challenges

Eleventh graders George He and Daniel Bai launched the school’s Programming Club in August 2020 for students interested in programming and computer science. In less than a year, the club has become a programming powerhouse as its members brought home accolades in the 26th annual Canadian Computing Competition (CCC), the most competitive informatics Olympiad in Canada organized by the Center for Education in Mathematics and Computing at the University of Waterloo. Over 7,000 students around the world face off in the competition every year.

Both George and Daniel received an award of distinction after ranking in the top 25% among all contestants in the Senior division. Their peers Ray Chu (G9) and Billy Song (G8) likewise won the same award in the Junior division. Their teammates Andrew Guo (G8) and Zuni Wang (G6) competed in the latter division.

Achieving this feat was not easy, according to George, since it was their first time joining CCC, and so they had to learn the ropes on their own, including recruiting members and soliciting support from peers and parents. Their registration and preparation also coincided with the school’s sudden but partial return to distance learning following an outbreak in a community in Shunyi in January 2021. Despite the challenges, George attributes their success to hard work and persistence.

“Like in other disciplines, practice makes perfect,” he adds. “Certain topics in programming such as coding may be biased towards thinking, or CSP [certified software professional] may look at algorithms. So, understanding different sources expands a contestant’s horizon and will help them adapt to international competitions.”

Another global contest where Keystone students have achieved outstanding results was the recently concluded American Mathematics Competitions (AMC). A total of 89 students represented Keystone in this year's competition, with the entire delegation receiving the School Merit Roll and School Honor roll awards for the Global School 10A and 10B categories.

Yushu Fan, Jason Fu, and Sydney Shi (all G9) have earned an invitation to the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME), a much more challenging exam that prepares takers for global Math Olympiads.

Yushu received the first prize in the Chinese individual awards and the Global Excellence Award distinction for reaching the top 2.5% worldwide—but for her, competition is not just about the accolades but “how a participant shows an indomitable spirit in the whole process.”

The AMC is known as one of the most challenging pure mathematics competitions worldwide. Yushu shares that her daily classes at Keystone have given her room to develop her independent study, planning, and organizational skills, allowing her to “face the competition with a positive and optimistic attitude.”


Joining Together

Jason Liu, Athena Mo, Emily Shi, and Roy Zhao (all G10) were euphoric after learning the result of their foray into the National Economics Challenge, an economics competition organized by the Council for Economic Education in the United States.

Team captain Roy says they “started from nothing” and competed against other public-school groups without any professional help. They studied economics independently by applying interdisciplinary knowledge from their Individuals and Societies, Mathematics, and Science classes.

The team finished with the National Gold Prize, awarded to the top three teams in a division (they joined the David Ricardo Division, or the level for first-time competitors), and other accolades in the China Final Round in March 2021. Two other Keystone teams joined the same division, while another one led by eleventh grader Nancy Nie joined the much higher and competitive Adam Smith level.

“The biggest achievement we got from this contest was we developed a good team atmosphere and positive spirit, which resonated well with our Keystone shared values,” Roy adds. “We realized that the key to the success of a team lies not only on personal abilities but trust in one another.”

Eleventh grader Michael Chang has the same feeling about team dynamics as he led a separate Keystone student group in the China national finals of the United States Academic Decathlon (USAD), held in January 2021. His team won first place in Division 2 of the finals, which earned them an entry to the global finals in the United States. Another Keystone team, led by tenth grader Arvin Wang, placed fifth. Two members of Arvin’s team also joined the individual rounds in the global finals.

This year’s competition was Michael’s second; he likes how USAD looks beyond “competition skills” and focuses on team cooperation. To prepare for the latest USAD edition, Michael formed a small club to pass on the knowledge to his younger peers and potential participants.

Michael also shared that the latest USAD edition examined the Cold War as an overarching theme, leading global participants to “analyze the subject from different perspectives,” thus “improving [our] interdisciplinary thinking advocated in our Keystone classes.”

“Sure, participating in such a competition can make our high school life more exciting,” Michael reflects. “But what makes it very meaningful is we join as a group of friends with the same hobbies and interests and meet more students who will carry on our club’s passion. The competition has allowed us to know one another even better, and in the end, we have gained extremely good friends! And I think that is really awesome.”