Erica Blakely, 13, of Tinley Park, recently won $100 in a national competition for the Mastermind Braintwister Challenge. Her entry was one of the best of more than 150 entries nationwide
Updated: May 5, 2013 6:03AM
Ask Erica Blakely what she wants to be when she grows up, and she has a quick answer.
“President,” the 13-year-old Tinley Park girl said.
Don’t laugh. She’s serious. And when Erica sets her mind on something, things happen.
With little time to spare, the seventh-grader at Central Middle School entered a national contest involving the game Mastermind.
She submitted a question and won $100 for her efforts.
“It was a Mastermind Braintwister Challenge. You had to submit a puzzle that uses all the skills applied in the game Mastermind,” Blakely said.
She won for “best use of skills learned in Mastermind game play” for her Braintwister question called “Who, What, When?” Visit www.mastermind-education.com/winners to find her winning entry.
Using a grid provided to complete this puzzle, players use logic, reasoning, visual perception, deduction and problem-solving skills to determine which children belong to which parents, how old each child is and each parent’s occupation.
Mastermind, according to the game’s website, requires players to use strategy and problem-solving skills to outsmart their opponent.
One player is the codemaker and creates a code of colored pegs. The other player is the codebreaker and attempts to break the code with help from clues given by the codemaker. Players take turns being codemaker and codebreaker, and whoever breaks the code in the least amount of moves wins. Once the code is broken, the players can switch, finding out who can break the code more quickly, to get the title of Mastermind.
“I created a chart and you had to fill in the chart based on the clues given to you. There were 20 clues and you had to figure out the question,” Blakely said.
When told by a reporter that the task “sounds hard,” she said, “It wasn’t for me because I made it. I don’t know how difficult it would be for someone else.”
She was surprised she won $100, which has been deposited into a savings account. There were more than 150 entries from students nationwide.
Not bad for a girl who has “only played Mastermind once.”
Blakely gets good grades in school, where her “favorite topic is social studies but my favorite class is language arts.
“The work is fairly simple and the teacher doesn’t spend a lot of time telling us what to do. He lets us figure it out,” she said.
Blakely is the youngest of four children in her family and says she enjoys board games.
“I like Monopoly but I also like Monopoly Jr. because it’s way shorter. And I like the kiddie game Chutes & Ladders,” she said.
Parents Paula and Eric Blakely are impressed by their daughter.
“I think it’s amazing for a couple of reasons. We had talked about the contest for a number of weeks and she was very interested in doing it,” her mother said. “On the day the contest should have ended, about an hour before the deadline, she said, ‘You know what, I’m going to do it.’ She sat at the kitchen table and drew her puzzle and in about 40 minutes asked ‘Mom, can you see if you can solve this?’ It was amazing that a last-minute entry would be in the Top 10, let alone a winner.”
Eric Blakely, who has been in the U.S. Army for 28 years and is a Master Sergeant in the Army Reserves, knows to expect the unexpected from his daughter.
He recalled when, shortly before her third birthday, she asked her mother why “if the name is Walgreens, how come the walls aren’t green.”
“Ever since then, when things like this happen, I’m not amazed,” he said. “I’m happy for her. I like seeing her develop.”