school teams engage minds Nativity BVM wins STEM competition
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.
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.
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...