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How To Master Both Writing and Doing, from a WIDI Competitor


Victoria Li

ScioVirtual Instructor



ScioVirtual Instructor



ScioVirtual Instructor


Inquiry events are really in another league of their own. I’m not really sure who had the idea to start them (and actually have more inquiry events than some other categories, like chem :( for instance), but they’ve definitely bore the brunt of many jokes from Scioly competitors for quite a while. As evident by the topic of MIT 2020’s LMMM (lean mean meme machine) trial competition. 

However, as they are weighted the same as other events, it’s still important to do well in them. Bombing any event is incredibly detrimental to the team, so don’t overlook something that sounds like it came straight out of preschool teachers’ curriculum plan like WIDI, which in its defense, is still more legit than game on (something my teammates would not agree with). 

The Event

Write it-Do it involves 2 people. One writer and one doer (not builder since that’s an insult to actual builders, not to mention just confusing). This is the only event where the partners do not compete together. The writer gets 25 minutes to write instructions on how to build an abstract structure (meaning it’s unconventional, like a bunch of random objects stuck in a styrofoam hemisphere or a piece of paper that someone took a pen and went crazy on). The builder then has 20 minutes to read the instructions and recreate the structure. They are scored on a rubric with time being the tiebreaker. 

Now, this may sound easy, but there’s a reason you’ll see quite a few of the top teams get pretty consistent medals across the board and then bomb WIDI. 1) it’s not exactly a skill set people practice. Like you can’t show off how good you are at reading instructions on how to stick pieces of lego together like you can your superior bird ID skills. And if this event guide sounds like it has a lot of unnecessary sarcastic comments intertwined into it, it’s because it does and also because I was watching stand-up comedy while writing this. (Check out Dry Bar on Youtube guys, it’s awesome) And 2) it may seem simple to just describe a structure while you’re looking at it, but there are a lot of details that must be mentioned in order for someone to perfectly jab a pencil into an eraser at just the right angle. 


Now, if you are the writer, you could arguably carry the event. If your writing is just that good, no matter how bad your partner’s reading comprehension is, you guys should do reasonably well. Now of course you’ll place higher if you and your partner have good rapport and a predetermined system where you can write less to explain more. 

For physical structures (so when it’s not on a program like Onshape, TinkerCAD, etc.), it’s good to have a system for certain components. For example, my partner and I designate the parts of a paperclip in different ways. There is the innermost small loop, the middle loop right below it and the big loop above. The way it is in the picture to the right is “standard position,” and the rods are named correspondingly to the loops. 

The "standard position" of a paper clip.

For online structures, the tricky part is a lot of the time you’ll see something that you aren’t sure if it is just given to your partner like that or they have to put two pieces together. Always assume the latter, better safe than sorry. 

When describing structures, never say something like “attach A to B so that it looks like a C.” That gives the builder almost no information. The distance, angle, attached part all have to be mentioned. For example, “Attach the cylinder by its flat circular side to the face of the pyramid that faces south so that the cylinder is half of its radius up from the base and right side of the pyramid face. The cylinder should be pointing southwest from left view.” 

Yes I know, it’s very obnoxious to do that for every single piece. That’s why it’s important to practice with your partner so they get used to your writing style and so you can write things more concisely. Also, it is very important that you can either type or write fast, and neatly as well. I hate to say it man, but if your handwriting reflects your goal of becoming a doctor your partner is going to be very ticked during their 20 minutes with that piece of paper (like my handwriting is that bad, which is why I’m the doer). And if you type too slowly, then hopefully your partner reads at the same pace, or else they’ll have to spend time checking over the structure. This generally shouldn’t happen unless it was a bad WIDI. Most of the time neither the writer or doer finishes their part. 


For Doers, you won’t get blamed, nor do you get the credit for a bad/good WIDI result. Unless you and your partner are just known to be a good(or bad) combination. 

For Doers, there’s less you can do to do well in the event. Like no matter how lucky you are or how good you are at interpreting scribbles if your writer just decided to be deep that day and describe the structure like they’re in an advanced poetry class, you’re kinda screwed. 

For us, we just gotta put in the effort to practice at least once with our writer and tell them about anything that’s unclear in their writing. Because almost no one is going to re-read their own writing to figure out what they need to improve on; this event does not induce people to put in that much effort. If you really think your partner is just that horrible at writing, step up and become the writer instead. 


Overall, WIDI can be kind of a hit or miss depending on your partner, like if they’re colorblind, or if they’re not colorblind but still can’t tell blue from purple or left from right. Do your best and just have fun with it. Getting to just sit down with a pile of Kinex after a grueling day of competition is incredibly relaxing. So enjoy! 

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