VSS Panthers’ economics team members Jacob Dolinar (from left)

VSS Panthers’ economics team members Jacob Dolinar (from left)

Students embrace the Titan Challenge

VSS students reach the finals of business competition

When Jacob Dolinar, Hanna Kulak and Daniel Chow aren’t bickering over who has the highest grade point average, they actually make a fairly tight-knit team.

The academically inclined trio (their averages are all in the high 90s), members of the Vernon Panthers economics team, demonstrated that co-operative spirit in reaching the finals of the Global Junior Achievement Titan Challenge.

Without it, they would have been hard pressed to succeed in an online competition where teams take on the role of chief executive officers of virtual manufacturing companies and seek the highest performance index.

Dolinar and Kulak, who are going into Grade 11, and Chow who is ready for his Grade 12 year, faced off against older, more experienced students over a series of elimination rounds.

Some of their opponents included private school and university level students, coached by business professionals.

“It was amazing that we won,” said VSS economics coach Susan Egan.

“The odds are so stacked against you, but these three players are so talented.”

The Panthers have earned an all-expenses paid trip to Wilmington, Del. for the finals, where they will compete against the top 13 teams (12 regional teams, plus the host) in a head-to-head challenge, Aug. 5-9. The final round will determine which teams will win one of five cash awards.

After outlasting more than 1,000 other teams in the opening round in February, VSS battled the top 64 remaining teams from Canada, Mexico and South America in the simulated business competition, which is based on an online program called JA Titan.

Teams are prompted to make decisions that affect the profitability of their virtual company and attempt to outperform and outmaneuver their competitors in profit, sales and market share.

“We started well in the first four quarters, and then about quarter five, the other teams started to catch up a bit,” said Dolinar, who played hockey with the Midget Tier 2 Vipers last season. “

We made a few decisions that weren’t the greatest.

“We made our big move in seven, dropped our price and sold a lot of inventory.”

The Vernon trio sealed its place in the final by undercutting the competition in the ninth quarter and pumping up their marketing.

Kulak, a member of the Canadian Martial Arts Academy, says a lot of their success can be attributed to knowing the opposition, and predicting their next move.

“You have to figure out where the market is going, what each company is doing and then build your decision based on what you want to do, but also on what everyone else is doing at the same time.”

Added Egan: “This is the strongest team I’ve ever had in terms of analysis. They can figure out exactly what the other teams are doing. There are so many levels of play here, and what I found with this team is that they have it all.”

Chow learned a lot from last year’s competition, and believes there is better communication among this group.

“Last year, you got a good look at the other teams,” he said.

“Our teamwork is a lot stronger now than it was last year. Last year we were kind of disorganized, but now we work together quite well.”

Unfortunately for the Panthers, their chemistry will be missing an ingredient as the competition allows for just two team members to make the trip to Delaware. Kulak, showing her selfless side, offered her spot.

“I wanted to go to worlds too, but I knew Daniel wanted to go just as badly as I did,” said Kulak, who will instead work as a camp leader at Eagle Bay, a summer Christian camp on Shuswap Lake.

“He’s been working for longer than I have.”