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Asynchronous Big Questions Scholarship Tournament

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Earn college scholarships

No entry fee

Presented by the John Templeton Foundation


Winning Performances

1st Place – $1,000 Scholarship

Mihika Chechi, Burbank High School

Burbank, California

2nd Place – $500 Scholarship

Sana Hokawala, Lake Oswego Senior High School

Lake Oswego, Oregon

3rd Place – $250 Scholarship

Skyler Lea, Raytown South High School

Raytown, Missouri

4th Place – $250 Scholarship

Isobel Maksoudian, Arlington High School

Arlington, Massachusetts

5th Place – $100 Scholarship

Bennett Young, Jonesboro High School

Jonesboro, Arkansas

6th Place – $100 Scholarship

Sumi Shah, Syosset High School

Syosset, New York

7th Place – $100 Scholarship

Olivia Tan, Westridge School

Pasadena, California

8th Place – $100 Scholarship

Tinghan Wang, Acton-Boxborough Regional HS

Acton, Massachusetts

9th Place – $100 Scholarship

Elandrea Baker, North Kansas City High School

North Kansas City, Missouri 

10th Place – $100 Scholarship

Jonathan Barnes, Westchester Academy for International Studies

Houston, Texas


The Asynchronous Big Questions Scholarship Tournament is designed to enhance students’ current debate experiences and encourage them to engage in life discussions at the intersection of science and philosophy. Competitors will submit one recording featuring speeches on both sides of the Big Questions topic, Resolved: Humans are primarily driven by self-interest using the Pro Con Challenge speech format. The top 10 performing competitors will receive college scholarships!

A special thank you to the John Templeton Foundation for providing the grant support to make this tournament possible. The John Templeton Foundation funds research and encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, theologians, and the public at large.

Tournament Details

Dates & Deadlines

    • February 1: Registration opens at
    • April 5: Video links are due in
    • April 5: Judges are due
    • April 10: Judges’ asynchronous judging assignments will be released in
    • April 13 at 12:00 p.m. Central Time: All judging assignments are due
    • April 14: Scholarship winners are announced!

Entry Requirements

    • Each school may enter up to 10 students.
    • Students in grades 6-12 are eligible to enter.
    • NSDA membership is not required.
    • Students and judges must be registered under their school name with permission to represent their school in the event.
    • Coaches must acquire a signed Entry Release Form for each competitor before the first day of competition, retain these signed forms, and be ready to produce them at any point during or following the tournament. Videos of the top 10 performers will be posted online as a resource.


    • All students must use the topic, Resolved: Humans are primarily driven by self-interest.
    • The Pro Con Challenge format will be used.
    • Competitors will write a 3-5 minute affirmative constructive speech on the BQ topic and a 3-5 minute negative constructive speech on the BQ topic.
    • They will present both their affirmative and negative speeches back to back within one recording. The overall recording can be no longer than 10 minutes and 30 seconds.
    • Speeches should not be memorized; students are expected to read from pre-written text during the speech as if they were presenting a constructive speech in a live Big Questions Debate round.
    • Students must follow the recording rules found under “Asynchronous Speech Requirements” in the Unified Manual on page 72.

Video Submissions

    • Each student will record one video for submission.
    • Videos must be uploaded to a site that allows a publicly-accessible link to be generated, e.g. YouTube, Google Drive. Please double check that the link is accessible to anyone who has the URL.
    • In your registration, select the blue and white edit button next to the entry’s name and copy/paste the link where it says “Video Link” and save.

Judging Standards

    • Judges will evaluate the structure, arguments, evidence, and speaking abilities of each competitor and rank them overall relative to the other competitors in their round.
    • Judges will consider questions such as: Does the speaker display solid logic and reasoning? Does the speaker advocate for each side of the Big Questions topic clearly? Does the speaker use a variety of credible sources and cite them appropriately? Are both sides of the topic well defended? Does the student have a clear structure to their speech and use transitions to move effectively between each part of the speech? Does the student use voice, movement, expression, and eye contact effectively?
Judging Requirements

    • Obligation: Each school must provide 1 judge per 5 entries or fraction thereof.
    • Eligibility: Judges must be 18+ and cannot be current high school students. Judges must have accounts.
    • Training Requirement: Judges must complete the NFHS/NSDA Cultural Competence course prior to judging.

Judging Window

    • Judges’ round assignments will be made public in at 8:00 a.m. Central Time on Monday, April 10.
    • Each judge should expect to complete up to four rounds of judging. Judges should set aside about 90 minutes per round to watch the videos, write feedback, and submit ranks.
    • All ballots are due by 12:00 p.m. Central Time on Thursday, April 13.
    • Judges may complete their assignments at their leisure between April 10 and the deadline on April 13.

Find a Judge to Hire

Check out our Judge Board to see listings of judges available for hire. If your school chooses to connect with a judge from the judge board, your school is responsible for contacting, hiring, paying, and communicating with that judge.

The top 10 competitors based on ranks and points will earn college scholarships! Winners will be announced on Friday, April 14. Scholarships are presented by the John Templeton Foundation.

      • Champion receives $1,000
      • Runner-Up receives $500
      • 3rd place receives $250
      • 4th place receives $250
      • 5th place receives $100
      • 6th place receives $100
      • 7th place receives $100
      • 8th place receives $100
      • 9th place receives $100
      • 10th place receives $100

The video submissions of the top 10 competitors may be shared as resources on the NSDA website.

Coaches of the top 10 competitors will be provided information about the scholarship claim request process after the event. Scholarships earned at the competition can be claimed by graduated students who have enrolled in post-secondary school. Proof of enrollment is required and scholarship funds will be sent to the registrar.


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