For the City Times
Two ninth grade P.J. Jacobs teams finished tops in the eCybermission competition, one of several science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives offered by the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP).
Sponsored by the U.S. Army and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), eCYBERMISSION, is a web-based STEM competition free to students. Designed to inspire student interest in STEM, eCYBERMISSION challenges students in grades six through nine to develop solutions to real-world problems in their local communities.
Team “Journey of a Thousand Volts”: Kaia Houtman, Lili Rolands and Tarren Lewis, created a stair step that generates kinetic electricity from the impact of a person’s step.
“Just think how many times student’s walk up and down the stairs [at P.J.’s]. If each of those steps generated electricity you could save on energy costs,” said Charles Sensenbrenner, the students’ teacher.
Sensenbrenner’s students developed a prototype using coil and magnets to generate 9mv of electricity with each step. While the actual amount of electricity isn’t enough to power the school, the ability for students to think about bigger problems and applications for solving those problems is important, Sensenbrenner said.
Team members were awarded $2,000 each in savings bonds after placing as regional finalists.
Team “Smokey’s New Hat”, comprised of Dakotah Mrozek, Nathan Roth, Henry Sims, and Christian Kiener, put their skills to work developing a prototype for a product that would combat forest fires.
The fire ‘hat’ is a dome that covers fire rings and detects when a fire is not completely extinguished. When smoke is detected, the dome releases a fire extinguishing spray to ensure that the fire does not spread outside of the intended camp ring.
The team placed second in Wisconsin and were each awarded $500 in savings bonds.
Both team’s members went through an engineering design process in preparation for the competition including; identifying the need and constraints, researching the problem, developing possible solutions, selecting a promising solution, building a prototype, testing and evaluating the prototype and then redesigning as needed.
Sensenbrenner provided a small amount of class time for team members to work on their projects. But their success, he said, came from the students’ maturity to work on their projects outside of school time — and their leadership to develop solutions for real-world problems.