MOSES LAKE — Clair Reed said competition baking requires precision. Noah Bingham and Eli Legault had to go forward on a completely unfamiliar project after a project partner moved away. The three Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center students finished in the top 10 at recent state competitions.
Reed was third in the state SkillsUSA baking competition. Legualt and Bingham finished seventh in the state Future Business Leaders of America competition to build a video game, their first year in FBLA.
“I’m mildly disappointed I didn’t get first,” Reed said. “Just me being competitive.”
In both cases, competitors got a list of requirements and instructions, and part of the competition was following the instructions.
“It was more of a competition of being able to follow the recipe to a T,” Reed said.
The FBLA competition was more generalized but still held to a high standard.
“They give us the topic for the game, the genre it has to be,” Legalt said. “They also give some rules and how the game will be criticized.”
Baking competitors had an extensive list of dishes to prepare from scratch and a time limit of about three hours.
“We did chili and cheddar muffins, chocolate chip cookies (and) we decorated a cake,” Reed said. “We did walk. Oh, and we did bread.”
Award-winning cookies, muffins and bread start with practice, she said.
“We got that packet about two months in advance. And we started getting comfortable with the recipes and then working on getting our time down,” Reed said.
Bingham, Legualt and the third team member, Audrey Tran, started with a brainstorming session. Their final product involves a haunted mansion and a curious child who discovers it.
“(Players) go into it and they end up getting stuck in it,” Bingham said. “They have to fight monsters and solve puzzles to get out of the mansion. The whole point of the game is to get out of the mansion.”
The game designers split up the duties. Tran had the experience as part of a team that finished first in state in 2021.
“She’s really good with art and she did all our artwork for the game,” Legault said.
Legault is a musician and was in charge of the music, and Bingham wrote the computer code.
Legault composed the music and said different sections of the game required different musical cues. The opening sequence was a little bit eerie, foreshadowing things to come, Legault said. The music had to emphasize the attraction of the old house while the player was being lured in.
“Every bit of the sound that was in the game was by (Legault),” Bingham said. “He did an amazing job on that.”
There was, however, a hitch. While the game was still in development, it moved away. While most of the artwork was done, that left Bingham and Legault, two rookies in state competition, on their own.
“(Tran) was a lot of help to them, I think,” said skills center video game programming instructor Terri PIxlee.
Bingham agreed that Tran was part of the team’s success, establishing a good foundation for the project prior to her departure.
“The driving force to get them started,” Pixlee said. “But they pulled through on their own.”
The baking competition was a one-person show, and Reed said precision, not only in measuring ingredients but also in timing, was crucial.
“The recipes were made so specific that if you were off by an ounce or so, the whole recipe was ruined and you had to restart,” she said. “The chili cheese muffins were particularly difficult because there’s a very small – like, two minutes – window where the cheese isn’t burned and the chiles are perfectly cooked. It’s very much a balance for some of them.”
The biggest test, however, was decorating the cake, she said. The icing had to be the right consistency to get the writing the way the judges wanted it, and that was a challenge, she said.
The work and practice and concentration required paid off, but didn’t completely quiet the nerves, she said.
“Anxiety, but in the end, it’s so worth it,” she said.
Cheryl Schweizer may be reached at email@example.com.