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High-tech hunt nets a $5,000 prize
By Tan Vinh
Was it a parade? A senior prank? "Did they kidnap some school's mascot?" one passer-by asked.
In an unusual high-school competition, more than 120 students from the Eastside and Seattle raced around downtown in a scavenger hunt, using camera cellphones, radio headphones and other electronic gadgets in a contest sponsored by Qwest Communications International.
Newport High of Bellevue won the $5,000 first prize and a free concert from the band Yellowcard by becoming the first team to score 5,000 points in a treasure hunt billed as part Indiana Jones and part Pokémon.
For three hours, students roamed around downtown, searching for semacodes, digital grids similar to bar codes and shaped like crossword puzzles.
Then they used their camera cellphones to snap a picture of the semacode, which then gave their phones a text message indicating how many points they had just earned.
The event yesterday was to introduce students around Western Washington to semacode technology, which could arrive in the United States late next year.
About 300 semacodes were plastered around poles, newspaper boxes and storefronts yesterday. Each school, with a team of 25 students, carried a giant inflatable animal, which teams stationed to mark their search area to avoid overcrowding with other schools.
About 15 minutes into the mad dash, with the Newport High team hauling its 60-pound inflatable sheep, a sweaty Tim Reeve of Bellevue made a breathless assessment: "Seattle is hilly, man!"
But he and his teammates said the running was well worth the $5,000 prize, which will be used to buy T-shirts to give away at football games and for student-government activities.
"This was fun," said Reeve, who used his cross-country running skills to track down 35 semacodes for his team. "It's great to look at people's faces when you go by with the sheep. They look baffled."
Which aptly described the reaction of puzzled passer-by Kathy Hansen. When students explained it was to win $5,000 for their school, Hansen replied, "OK. Whatever it takes, I guess."
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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