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ASU West campus hosts fast-paced high school speech competition

CALL mentors
March 17, 2014

The Communication Assessment and Learning Lab (CALL) on Arizona State University’s West campus is looking for “Sparky’s Next Great Public Speakers” and is hosting a competition to focus on the importance of public speaking, April 25 and 26.

Unlike traditional “speech and debate” tournaments, this event will focus on helping high school juniors and seniors become familiar and comfortable with the speaking standards as outlined in Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards. Using the framework of competition reality shows (like Food Network’s “Chopped” and “American Idol”), three-person teams from area high schools will compete at ASU’s West campus on April 25, with finalists competing the next day.

Each member of the winning team will be awarded $150, and their high school will be the recipient of the “Golden Sparky Cup” until next year’s competition.

“One of our goals of this competition is to introduce the idea that public speaking isn’t just for a few people, but everyone has the potential to be a successful communicator in their own unique way,” said Bonnie Wentzel, CALL’s faculty director. CALL is an initiative of ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the core college on the university’s West campus. The lab provides a space to practice and improve public speaking skills.

“This event also creates an opportunity for high school students to come to our campus, work alongside undergraduates and participate in a slice of university life,” said Marlene Tromp, dean of New College. “We want more high school students to truly visualize themselves being college students in the not-so-distant future.”

The competition will focus on three areas: research, visual aids and delivery. Each team member will rotate duties in each of the three rounds so that all will have the opportunity to contribute to the team as the speaker. Students will be given a topic, a type of visual aid, a research source and a “Surprise from Sparky” to incorporate into their presentations in this fast-paced, fun competition.

The schedule starts on April 25 with competing high school students having the opportunity to work in the CALL lab with undergraduate and graduate student mentors. Following lunch, sponsored by Barrett, the Honors College, teams will begin preliminary rounds to determine the finalists. On April 26, the final four teams will compete to become Sparky’s Next Great Public Speakers. Final determination of the winning team will be left to a combination of judges' scores and votes from the audience.

There is no cost to participate. Students can learn more about the competition and sign up at