school teams en­gage minds Na­tiv­ity BVM wins STEM com­pe­ti­tion

The Republican Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID BARR STAFF WRITER

MAR LIN — Po­ten­tial sci­en­tists, en­gi­neers and other aca­demics from four schools in Schuylkill County faced off in a re­gional qual­i­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion in the Gover­nor’s STEM Com­pe­ti­tion at the Schuylkill In­ter­me­di­ate Unit 29 Maple Av­enue cam­pus Tues­day.

STEM stands for Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics. Tues­day’s com­pe­ti­tion fea­tured stu­dents from Pottsville Area, Pine Grove Area, Na­tiv­ity BVM and North Schuykill.

Na­tiv­ity won the fourth an­nual com­pe­ti­tion, the theme of which was “Im­prov­ing Penn­syl­va­nia through STEM.” Ideas sub­mit­ted had to ben­e­fit Penn­syl­va­nia and its res­i­dents.

With the win, Na­tiv­ity ad­vances to the statewide com­pe­ti­tion this spring.

The groups were judged on three cat­e­gories: a pa­per or re­port on their project, their pre­sen­ta­tion of the ac­tual project, and how well they worked to­gether on build­ing a ve­hi­cle out of ma­te­ri­als pro­vided to them in a sep­a­rate ac­tiv­ity. The ve­hi­cle had to move on its own with no hu­man in­ter­ac­tion.

Af­ter the scores were tal­lied, Na­tiv­ity BVM was de­clared the win­ner with its high-tech Pere­grine fal­con nest­ing box. The idea came from team mem­ber Johnathon Eich and his love of the speedy bird.

“We wanted to solve a prob­lem no one else would solve,” team mem­ber Gabriella Quinn said.

Pere­grine fal­cons tend to nest on rooftops or cliffs so the team de­signed a box that would house the bird with a move­able por­tion that sim­u­lated the edge of a cliff or a roof.

An ac­tu­a­tor moved the struc­ture in and out and took 90 sec­onds to fully ex­tend. In­side the box was a cam­era

that could be used to watch the bird, much like bald ea­gle cam­eras used else­where.

Be­cause of the birds’ ten­dency to use rooftops in cities as a nest­ing lo­ca­tion, this could re­lo­cate the fal­cons to a more ru­ral habi­tat and po­ten­tially bring more to the commonwealth.

The Na­tiv­ity team con­sisted of Eich, Quinn, Michael Du­rant, Cooper Chiplo­nia and Abi­gail Bolich. The team was thrilled when they were an­nounced as the win­ners.

“We knew we would have a chance, but we weren’t ac­tu­ally sure,” Du­rant said.

All four teams re­ceived feed­back from the judges and within min­utes of win­ning, the Na­tiv­ity stu­dents were al­ready think­ing about how to im­prove their project and pre­sen­ta­tion for the next round.

Some im­prove­ments in­cluded mak­ing the ac­tu­a­tor quicker and qui­eter and pos­si­bly sound-proof­ing the struc­ture.

“Ob­vi­ously, we are thrilled to have won the STEM com­pe­ti­tion,” Na­tiv­ity teacher/ ad­viser Mau­reen Chal­lenger said. “STEM pro­vides awe­some op­por­tu­ni­ties to hone ca­reer skills such as col­lab­o­rat­ing with ex­perts, us­ing tech­nol­ogy, build­ing things and pre­sent­ing our re­sults. The team is al­ready plan­ning up­grades for the state cham­pi­onship round, in­clud­ing weather-proof­ing the struc­ture and up­grad­ing the cam­era. They’d like to mass pro­duce DIY kits that would al­low clubs or fam­i­lies to have ac­cess to na­ture on their hand­held de­vices.”

Na­tiv­ity BVM will have about 2 1/2 months to re­view, mod­ify and pre­pare for the state round May 18 at Thad­deus Stevens Col­lege, Lan­caster.

“The sky is the limit,” Chal­lenger said.

David mCKE­Own / Staff PhO­tOg­ra­PhEr

Na­tiv­ity BVM High School’s Johnathon Eich, front cen­ter, watches as his team’s self-pro­pelled ve­hi­cle moves off the line dur­ing the box chal­lenge por­tion of the 2018 Re­gional Gover­nor’s STEM Com­pe­ti­tion on Tues­day at Schuylkill In­ter­me­di­ate Unit 29...

From left, Pottsville Area High School’s Luke Stoner, Laura Tur­nitza and Noah Fred­er­icks work on build­ing a self-pro­pelled ve­hi­cle dur­ing the box chal­lenge.

DAvid mcKe­own / stAFF Pho­tog­rA­Pher

From left, North Schuylkill’s Luke Halko, Doug Weist, Ari Wolfe and Jack Kempsey build a self-pro­pelled ve­hi­cle dur­ing the box chal­lenge por­tion of the 2018 Re­gional Gover­nor’s STEM Com­pe­ti­tion on Tues­day at the Schuylkill In­ter­me­di­ate Unit 29 Maple...

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