Students from Lockport, Lancaster, Clarence, and Williamsville were the among the winners of the first WNY Brain Challenge, co-presented by Computers For Children and WNY STEM.
The WNY Brain Challenge was a competition for middle school and high school students to use their creative, ingenuity and problem-solving skills to design a better mousetrap. The catch? The mouse was a computer mouse, and the capture device had to be designed and assembled in the manner of cartoonist Rube Goldberg. In other words, the students had to use a motley collection of everyday objects to fabricate this mousetrap.
The contraption needed to feature eight discernible steps and had to launched by rolling a ball down a ramp. Simple machines, powered by gravity (students couldn't manipulate the workings with their hands), challenged students to consider the power of inclined planes, levers, force and motion. The result was a wide array of creative approaches to solve the same problem.
WNY STEM President Michelle Kavanaugh, Ed.D., said, "The Brain Challenge is an ideal way to engage learners in an experience that mirrors the real world: Finding engineered solutions to problems that require complex thinking and innovative design. The energy and creativity we saw was impressive. This is STEM/STEAM at its best."
Entries were judged on compliance with contest rules, the efficacy of the eight discernible from start to finish, teamwork, and creative problem-solving.
In the middle school division, Lockport's Northpark Junior High School's team took first place, followed by the team from Emmet Belknap School in second place, also from Lockport. The team from Lancaster Middle School took third place. In the high school division, Clarence High School placed first, followed by the team from Williamsville North High School in second place.
"We couldn't have been happier with the results of the first annual WNY Brain Challenge. We had such support from the corporate mentors and teachers that guided the students through the process; however the level of engagement and excitement around the competition is a true indicator of the importance of programs where students are given the opportunity for hands-on experiential learning," said Christine Carr, executive director of Computers For Children.
Each member of the winning teams received laptop computers provided by KeyBank. Judges represented 43 NORTH, National Grid, Praixair, and WNY STEM.
The event was held May 18 on the Erie Community College South Campus, simultaneous with the annual Erie Community College TechWars competition, also for middle and high school students, organized by the Western New York Technology Educators Association.
"Tech Wars at ECC, now in its 10th year, celebrates all that is technical, which in today's world is pretty much everything!" said head Tech Wars organizer for ECC Ed Hayes. "This year, 575 students from 25 school districts met to challenge each other. Students were given the opportunity to take the lessons of the classroom and apply them in a fun, competitive series of events. These events are meant to encourage cooperation, problem-solving, design, applied mathematics and applied science, and to thoroughly engage the student. We have found that, by creating this enjoyable way to share, test and reinforce knowledge between students and school districts, we are generating a child more interested in the possibility of a STEM career than by just attempting to engage them in the classroom."
Tech Wars student teams from Clarence Middle School won first place in the 12-inch bridge and catapult categories. Sweet Home Middle School students captured first place in the air car skimmer event. Students from Harpursville Middle School placed first in the mousetrap vehicle. In the high school division, Harpursville Central placed first for its "Battle Bots" and "Starstruck Vex." West Valley High School students captured first place for T-shirt design and on-site engineering. Clarence High School students placed first in catapult, "Starstruck Vex" and paper airplane categories. Tonawanda High School placed first in the "King of the Hill" and mousetrap vehicle categories. Tonawanda Middle School also captured the video production category. Akron High School won first place in the escape room category.
A complete list of Tech Wars winners, including second- and third-place student teams, can be found at www.wnytea.com/eccresults