In 1984, Gail Bliss was having problems sleeping.
In her additional time awake, Bliss said her thoughts drifted to how to motivate her students. She taught art and history at Waynoka High School and her husband, Lonnie Bliss, was girl's basketball coach at another high school in Woods County.
"I thought about how I could motivate my students to be as competitive in the classroom as the student athletes coached by my husband were in sports," she said.
The answer, Bliss decided, was academic competition. She began talking with other educators about academic competition and a tournament was held later in 1984.
Her sleepless night thoughts and resulting interest from other educators in promoting academic competition resulted in the formation of the Oklahoma Association for Academic Competition.
Bliss is director of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that develops and coordinates academic activities for students statewide - mostly for elementary and middle school students. Most high school competition is part of the Oklahoma Secondary School Athletic Competition.
The Oklahoma Association for Academic Competition organizes academic tournaments statewide.
"During the school year we may have six of seven tournaments in a single day," Bliss said. "We work with gifted kids from across the state."
Local school districts are hosts for the tournaments.
At a tournament at Redland Community College in El Reno on a Saturday in April, 496 students representing 86 school districts took 900 academic tests in subjects including history, mathematics, science and English.
"Some students took as many as six tests," she said.
Funding for the association has traditionally come from tournament entry fees paid by schools.
"That is what we use to pay for the awards and to prepare the questions," Bliss said.
This year, the Oklahoma Association for Academic Competition will hold its first fundraiser to provide funding for Team Oklahoma '08. The six-member team will go to Orlando, Fla., in June for the Panasonic Academic Challenge. The six team members include …