By RIVES KUHAR
Grains of rice, M&Ms and pretzel crumbs waited on a white, porcelain plate as Ryan Vaughn, in his karate headband, stared back with chopsticks in hand.
Surrounded by the butter yellow walls of the Dome Room in Seacobeck Hall, Vaughn, senior math major, won silver in this year’s Chopstick Challenge.
It was only the day before when Vaughn was persuaded by his roommates to enter in the competition. They even had a training session for Vaughn later that night, making him practice picking up grains of rice and other small objects.
He only trained for an hour, but an hour is a long time to practice the tedious art of picking up small objects with chopsticks.
Although Vaughn says his chopstick abilities are “no better than the average person,” he recalls using them regularly on his recent study abroad in Budapest, Hungary. Vaughn would often eat at Kinai bufes, equivalent to Chinese buffets, using chopsticks as his preferred utensil. The practice gave Vaughn the leverage he needed over his contenders.
“I can’t catch flies with chopsticks. I’d be cool if I could,” Vaughn said.
However, Vaughn attributes his success to his roommates, who were “instrumental” in his win. In addition to having a good support base, Vaughn kept his mind on the prize throughout the competition, giving him the motivation he needed.
“I was thinking about the smoothie. You just have to think about winning,” Vaughn said.
Running swiftly and blocking off his contenders while transporting the food into a collection bucket put Vaughn ahead of the other contestants.
“Everyone else in the challenge was a little timid,” Vaughn said. “They weren’t willing to box people out, I think that’s what gives me leverage.”
Vaughn’s strategy was to pick up the smallest items first and then move up. However, at the faceoff, which consisted of sunflower seeds and grains of rice, Vaughn had trouble gripping the rice. Next time, Vaughn will flip the chopsticks over and use the cylinder side for more leverage.
“Cardio and finger strength are the two keys to winning the chopstick challenge,” Vaughn said.
Despite placing second, Vaughn enjoyed the fierce competition and celebrated by eating sushi with his roommates immediately after.