AUBURN — A pair of Edward Little High School seniors will pit their science and technology skills against some of the best in the state on a local TV program next week.
EL's Sophie Harris and Zachary Tannenbaum will compete on an episode of CW affiliate WPXT's science quiz show "MEST Up" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
The show was recorded last week at WPXT's studios in Westbrook.
"I'm not sure if I said anything too embarrassing, but I think I did all right," Tannenbaum said Friday.
The show pits two teams of two high school juniors or seniors against each other.
Executive Producer John Marshall said this first season includes students from 12 high schools in WPXT's coverage area, from Waterville south to Kittery.
During the first six episodes, the teams are simply competing to earn points. The eight teams with the highest score at the end of those six episodes will advance to the playoffs, while the four lowest scoring teams are eliminated.
"It becomes a single elimination contest at that point," Marshall said. "The first six games, they were just trying to rack up as many points as possible and guarantee a spot in the playoffs. But now a team goes home at the end of every show, so there's going to be a bit more strategy involved."
The show continues until one team is left. Both players on that championship team win an iPad, and the team wins a trophy for their school.
Auburn's Tannebaum and Harris compete in the sixth episode, which airs Thursday. The playoffs begin Thursday, Aug. 9.
The sixth episode has already been recorded. Marshall wouldn't say how well the Auburn team did, but said we can expect to see Tannenbaum and Harris again.
Each game is divided into three rounds. It starts with a speed round with the contestants buzzing in to answer questions.
"Then they have to build something, kind of a construction challenge," Marshall said. "Then we have a "Jeopardy"-style board where they can choose answers. Finally, they can bet as much or as little as they want."
"MEST Up" is one of 10 locally produced shows aired by WPXT.
"We love to do local programs," he said. "We may do more local programming than any station of comparable size in the country. So we love to do local things, and then the game shows are just a lot of fun."
Marshall said the station's first quiz show, "Kickstart," has been popular among the middle schools set. The show, set to begin casting its third season next month, pits individual Maine eighth-graders against each other.
"'Kickstart' has been a pretty big success for us, so we wanted to expand it," said Marshall, who works as executive producer and host of both shows. "But our sponsors said their market is more high-school-age students."
Marshall said the show targets technical knowledge — the STEM skills, or science, technology, engineering and math — and is much harder than "Kickstart."
"There is a huge movement in the state to promote STEM research," Marshall said. "There's a huge push to grow that for the kind of jobs Maine needs. We thought our show might not only be fun, but it could be part of that bigger initiative."
Tannenbaum and Harris were recommended for the contest by EL teacher Valerie Brown Ackley, the school's gifted and talented program coordinator.