Scott Durkin takes first place at the national NJROTC Academic Brain Brawl


Sophomore Scott Durkin stands with his NJROTC Academic Brain Brawl trophy in his NJROTC uniform.

When sophomore Scott Durkin competed in the individual portion of the Brain Brawl based on the NJROTC curriculum in Phoenix, Arizona, he felt nervous but also confident in his ability to answer the Navy-related questions. This confidence proved itself when he won first place in the nation in the annual NJROTC Academic Brain Brawl.

Before the individual portion, a group competition took place in teams of four competed in a buzzer format similar to the show Jeopardy. But for the PA NJROTC team to reach the national level, they first needed to compete in regionals.

“ROTC is separated into 12 areas each comprising of a couple different states, and Area 5 includes Virginia, Maryland, and D.C,” said Durkin.

Princess Anne competed in the southern regionals, receiving third place.

“We expected [receiving third place] because Green Run is actually one of the best ROTC’s in the nation. They have funded the overall best NJROTC unit in the nation for the past two years now,” remarked Durkin.

From Area 5 Regionals, only the top two teams continue to nationals, so PA and Green Run went on to the National Brain Brawl in Arizona.

Durkin said, “We were in the quarter-finals [in Phoenix], but then we didn’t advance to the semi-finals of the team competition.”

After the team loss, each team was required to pick a single student to participate in the individual portion of the competition. Unlike the team competition, the format of the individual section was not in a buzzer format. Instead, each student competed using a design similar to Quizizz.

“For a nerdy academic person like me,” Durkin commented, “yeah it’s stressful because it is the equivalent of Homecoming football fourth quarter down six points as like a quarterback, because I am the team commander, and I felt the same kind of stress there.”

Rather than being like the Scholastic Bowl, the Brain Brawl is solely focused on the curriculum of the ROTC, which is divided into eight subsections. These subsections include but are not limited to military history to Naval knowledge to Nautical Sciences, and leadership.

“The individual portion was mainly focused on military history, specifically new history,” Durkin said, adding that the program wanted students that were informed on current events.

“They had a couple current events questions, and one of them was like: What won the 2017 Oscars for Best Picture, and I am like how should I know this stuff?” Durkin continued.

Throughout the individual competition, Durkin noted he felt the questions were “very easy” for him so he was not concerned “he wouldn’t do well.”

Since Durkin finished before others, he had to wait in anticipation to see if he had won. Once the person trailing behind him finished and got the last question wrong, he knew he had gotten first place.

“I was ecstatic. I was just frozen. I was so excited that I couldn’t move, ” described Durkin.

Durkin noted that in the future, he would like to work in Nuclear Engineering in the Navy and went on further to explain he believes NJROTC provides an opportunity for students to learn about independence in leadership.

“The reason why I won this competition was because many of the questions were about a topic that I loved, and I’d started on my own time, and I just want to tell the people to find something you love, pour your heart into it, and take it and run with it,” recommended Durkin.