Two Kenai Peninsula teen-agers and their coach traveled to Switzerland last month to pick up awards in an international Web page contest.
Mandy Bundy, a seventh-grader at Kenai Middle School, and Karisa Powers, a sophomore at Skyview High School near Soldotna, won $10,000 scholarships each. Working with Charanna Smith of Minnesota, they created "The Unwritten," an Internet site about preserving family history using old photographs. Its address is library.thinkquest.org/C001313.
Their project won a gold medal in the ThinkQuest Internet Challenge in the interdisciplinary category. Top prize is a platinum medal, so the gold was equivalent to a second place.
The girls' coach, Berni Wensley, and Mandy's mother, Diane Bundy, accompanied them to Europe.
The awards ceremony was March 17-19 at CERN, The European Laboratory for Particle Physics, in Geneva.
"That is where the Web was invented," said Diane Bundy.
Although she has traveled to ThinkQuest award ceremonies before, she described the time in Geneva and insider tours at CERN as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The trip was also the first time for the peninsula girls, who are first cousins, to meet Smith, who is a distant relative. They joined members of 14 other championship teams for workshops, tours and celebrations in Geneva.
"It is such a neat experience to see kids from all over the world who have collaborated," said Wensley, who has coached championship teams in the past.
"It's a pretty select group. We were the only Alaskans."
ThinkQuest was founded by the nonprofit Advanced Network and Services, which promotes computer networking and technology in education. It began offering the ThinkQuest Internet Challenge contest in 1996 for teams of students ages 12 to 19.
Now the organization also runs ThinkQuest Junior, for girls and boys in grades four through six.
"The Unwritten" is the sixth winning project involving Kenai Peninsula students to earn top honors.
Wensley said ThinkQuest is reorganizing, with changes planned for next year's awards.
Representatives told her they will give out smaller, but more, awards. The top 100 teams will earn awards and the top 10 prizes will be given at large, rather than within categories. The highest prize will be reduced from $25,000 per student to $5,000.
Teams are now forming for next year's competition. Sign-up information is available at the Web site www.thinkquest.org. The deadline for team proposals is May 31.
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