A The Mesa teenager is preparing for national competition after winning the Arizona Academic Decathlon beating 250 other high school students.
Thor Eckman, a 17-year-old senior from Westwood High School, took part in 10 events which covered a variety of topics and also involved writing an essay, presenting a speech and conducting an interview.
Son of Vanessa and Lonnie Eckman, Thor aims to major in math at Arizona State University.
But for now, he’s for the national decathlon, which will be held virtually April 21-23 and will include an essay, interview, speech and demonstration of his mastery of math, history, social science, economics, literature, art and music,
Thor said this year’s theme was water, “so most of the study material was related to water in some way.”
“The material was provided at the end of the last school year so that the students could study during the summer,” he explained. “There are usually scrimmages, district, regional and national competitions. Normally the essay is written about a week before the competition and on Friday evening we compete for the interview and speech. On Saturday, we take seven written tests on the other subjects.
Due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19, many interviews and speeches were conducted remotely.
He said his biggest challenge in the Arizona Decathlon was the speech event.
“Before joining, I had no formal speaking experience, and this event was probably the one I had to work the hardest to be successful at,” he said. “I learned a lot in the area of public speaking and presentation and I think it’s a beneficial skill for me to have for the future.”
Preparing for the competition was an arduous task.
“I prepared using a variety of study strategies, such as interviewing myself and teaching my teammates, as well as creating practice materials for my teammates and I to use. One of the sayings is “the academic decathlon is won in the summer”. This means that students who study during the summer generally do much better. I spent hours and hours reading and studying the material from May last year.
Thor’s favorite subjects in school are math and chemistry and he also attends the Academic Decathlon and Math Club in Westwood.
Off campus, he coaches a FIRST Lego League robotics team.