Woodbridge Academy Debate Teams Qualify For National Championship

WOODBRIDGE — Two debate teams from the Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences in Woodbridge will head to North Carolina in April to compete in the Ethics Bowl national championship.

Woodbridge Academy fielded the winning team, as well as the runner-up, at the regional competition in December at Stevens Institute in Hoboken.

Debate coach James Smith, who teaches chemistry and physics, said 30 students came out for debate in September and he was able to field three five-student teams, all of which competed at Stevens.

Two of the Woodbridge Academy teams made it to the finals, both gaining spots in the national competition April 18-20 at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. There were six possible topics for debate, with the teams not knowing their topics until the competition began. The topics included “Fracking in Upstate New York,” “Genetic Chimerism,” “Making an E-visit to the Doctor,” “Resurrecting Celebrities with Holograms,” “Protection of Offensive Speech” and “Killing Terrorists with Drones.”

“The winners ended up debating all six topics,” Smith said. “It’s not a pro-con type of debate. They have to work through ethical dilemmas, discussing all the topics that might come up.

“I have never seen a group of students perform like these did,” he said. “The feedback I got was that these kids were professional and they created true teams. Each kid presented part of the case, and that impressed the judges.”

Each of the Woodbridge Academy teams won its group, Smith said.

The members of the winning team were Marcin Ciesla of Sayreville, Brooke Dekolf, Nicole Minogue and Yadvinder Singh of Old Bridge, and Rushil Oza of Woodbridge, while second place went to David Haldar of Edison, Neel Muzurndar, Ibraheem Shaikh and Randall Viera of Old Bridge, and Ruchit Patel of Piscataway.

The Woodbridge Academy debaters entered the Stevens competition last year for the first time and did not do as well.
“The kids were undaunted,” Smith said. “They loved the debates.”

The debaters have begun raising funds for the trip to North Carolina, selling T-shirts to their classmates.
“We’re working on a couple of other ideas,” Smith said.

Smith and Woodbridge Academy Principal Alex Guzmán plan to meet with Dr. Michael Steinmann, director of the High School Ethics Bowl and professor of philosophy at Stevens, to bring an ethics course to the academy for college credit.

The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the oldest vocational school district in the nation, has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge.

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