Written by Don Ratzlaff Monday, 02 July 2012 20:55
After taking the top prize in the junior division at Kansas History Day in April, the Goessel eighth-grader-to-be was judged to have the fourth-best individual exhibit during the national competition June 10-14 at College Park, Md.
In addition to her high ranking in the individual-exhibit category, Lanna also received the “Outstanding Affiliate Entry” award, sponsored by the National Park Service. The medal is awarded to the best entry from each state in the junior and senior divisions.
Kansas was represented in the junior division by two contestants in each of the nine categories of competition.
“I didn’t know I qualified (for the special award) because I didn’t know they had it,” Lanna said. “I had no idea that I would get an award, and I wasn’t expecting to. It was really cool to be able to do that.”
Lanna’s exhibit, titled “Trepanation to Robotics,” highlighted advances in surgery procedures through the centuries, from primitive efforts to bore holes in the skull to the use of cutting-edge robotics.
Competing against her at nationals in the category of “Individual Exhibit” were the top two contestants from each of the 50 states, plus two representing the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, international schools in Asia and Department of Defense Schools in Europe—about 110 entrants in all.
“The whole experience was a great learning experience,” Lanna said.
Preparing for nationals
In the weeks between winning the state contest and leaving for the national one, Lanna made some improvements to her exhibit based on comments she received from the state judges.
The biggest change was creating a wooden base to add depth to her display.
“They told me the judges at nationals don’t usually like things that are set on a table,” she said. “I guess it may have taken up a little bit more space, but I had plenty of room to expand the height.”
On advice from her mother, Lanna also printed duplicates of each item on her display before the family left for the East Coast.
“If something happened and the display didn’t make it, or things got lost in the process, I could create a new display,” she said.
In the meantime, Lanna was invited to present her exhibit to the Goessel school board and to gatherings at Friends University and Newton Medical Center. NMC’s highway sign about robotic surgery in Newton inspired her project.
Because Lanna’s family—father Doug,?mother Gretchen and brother Leighton—planned to tour the Washington, D.C., area after the contest, Sheri Sells, Lanna’s Extended Learning Program teacher at Goessel, offered to haul the display in her car.
“It was a little bit hard,” Lanna said about being separated from the display. “I was a little bit nervous about leaving it.”
The trip east went off without major incident, but the night after the display arrived, the fire alarm sounded at the Wagners’ motel. The family evacuated their room, leaving the display behind.
“I was scared for my display because I didn’t want it to disappear,” Lanna said. “We wouldn’t have anything.”
The alarm proved to be without cause but the incident limited Lanna to about 30 minutes of sleep the rest of the night.
A full week
The five day event on the University of Maryland campus began Sunday with registration—and a rush among the 2,800 or so contestants to trade state buttons.
Lanna said she was the only member of the Kansas delegation who collected a button from every state and international location.
Sunday ended with a welcome ceremony where the various delegations of contestants paraded around inside the university arena carrying placards, symbols and flags representing their home state.
“That was cool,” Lanna said.
Monday was judgment day. Some project categories involved live performances or presentations in front of judges. But for the individual-exhibit category, each contestant was interviewed for up to 15 minutes by a panel of three judges.
Lanna said she was nervous prior to the interview, but said the judges quickly put her at ease.
They told her to pretend she was the teacher and they were students who were going to take a test the next day on her exhibit. What did she want them to know?
“I told them that trepanation is a very primitive way of doing surgery, and through history it progressed to robotic surgery, which is very sophisticated and has much better outcomes for the patients and surgeons.”
The judges later returned to evaluate each display, which became the primary criterion for an entrant’s success.
During the awards ceremony Thursday, the top three entries in each category received an award. Lanna said she didn’t learn of her placement until she picked up the judges’ evaluation forms after the ceremony.
“I was just happy to see that I made it to finals,” she said. “Then Dad pointed out a little number at the bottom of the finals sheet that said I got fourth. I was like—what? It was amazing. I didn’t expect it. I didn’t think it would happen, but I?was happy it did.”
Lanna is already thinking about next year’s History Day project.
“I kind of have to,” she said. “But I love it, especially because it gives me something to do in ELP.”
The past year’s theme was, “Revolution, Reaction and Reform.” Next year’s is, “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.”
“I’d like to do something about the Vietnam War because my great aunt was a nurse in the war,” she said.
By contest rules, Lanna can’t begin researching a topic until the school year begins.
Does she feel pressure to top this year’s result?
“A little bit,” she admitted. “I’m not really sure what I can do to make something better. But I know I can do it if I put my mind to it. It’s just trying to figure out a topic that will top it.”