Part of the experience was a flashback -- we had these when I was in junior high and I was involved, primarily because I was a monumental nerd. I remain a nerd, but my monument status has been hampered by serious math deficiency. The little Einsteins were pretty dadgum smart, for certain. They answered questions that had words in them I vaguely remembered hearing once, like "biome," or "a whole number in reduced form." Well, I probably heard them more than once, but they only linger in my brain today.
What was fun was watching the kids work their brains -- some of the questions were seriously Trivial-Pursuit-ish, just random stuff that could be memorized like, say, the dialogue from Smokey and the Bandit. "There is no way, no way, you could have come from my loins. Soon as I get home, first thing I'm gonna do is punch your mama in the mouth." If there was a contest that quoted a line from Star Wars and asked for the next line, I would do very well. I am still a nerd, remember. But a lot of the questions involved stuff the students probably had to learn in a real class, which was neat. Some of them were current event-styled questions, which taught me that there is something called a "Jonas brother." But there was no further information.
One match brought us to a tie at the end of regulation rounds, so we had a tiebreaker. They tied at the end of that, so we had a second tiebreaker. They tied at the end of that, so we had a sudden death. It was fun reading the questions and letting the judge say who had the right answer and who didn't, rather than just telling them, "You're still tied." They probably went right outside and chugged some Pepto-Bismol.
One team was pretty clearly overmatched in the contests. But the neat thing about them was that when we came to questions where obviously no one knew the answer, one or two of them would buzz in and make a guess, rather than just sit on their hands and stare at the floor. It'd probably be easy for them to get discouraged when the other team was spitting out responses like little walking Wikipedias, but they didn't, and that was good to see.
However, I had one sour experience with these young people, who were as far as I could tell bright, well-mannered and hard-working. When confronted with a question that asked what are religious persons who are ordained by churches called, neither of the teams in the room I was working could answer "clergy."
I may require therapy.