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Middleschoolers design and build STEM carts for younger students

By Deborah Deasy, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
October 28th, 2016

School cart competition put creativity to the test. Now, grant funding will get them built

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Team by team, 50 Hampton seventh-graders recently pitched their competing blueprints for a rolling cupboard of educational aids.

Their assignment: Design a cart to carry today’s tools for STEM learning — the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math — in Hampton Township’s three elementary schools.

“We are Spark Engineering — lighting your world on fire one idea at a time,” Mia Conte, 13, told the 15 judges who ultimately chose her team’s cart design for production.

Later this year, Hampton High School students will manufacture three of Spark Engineering’s mobile carts — dubbed Tech Eddies — for use in Wyland, Poff and Central elementary schools.

As part of their product development, Mia’s classmates computed each Tech Eddie’s production cost: $235.

To boost their cart’s child appeal, Mia’s teammates proposed to coat each Tech Eddie with chalkboard paint.

The carts are being designed and manufactured by Hampton Middle and High School students for use in the elementary schools as part of a $20,000 grant coordinated by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Center for Creativity, school officials said. Funding came from Chevron, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Grable Foundation.

Glenn Geary, technology education teacher at Hampton Middle School, supervised the seventh-graders’ weeks of data gathering, measurement taking, cost estimating and cart designing that preceded each team’s 15-minute presentation to judges Oct. 13 at the middle school.

“Please don’t be nervous,” Marlynn Lux, acting principal of Hampton Middle School, urged the presenters.

“We’re excited to hear you” said Lux, one of 15 Hampton administrators, teachers and business people who judged the proposed cart designs and oral presentations.

Each team also showed judges a miniature model of its proposed STEM cart.

The seventh-graders’ assignment also challenged each team to develop a logo and slogan for the cart production company.

About a dozen students worked on each team as part of their technology education class, a required course for seventh-graders in the district.

Judges included Josh Lucas, of WorkHard Pittsburgh, Mike Capsembelis, of Google, and E.J. Prosser, of Modany Falcone.

Lightning Inc., one of the competing teams, dubbed its mobile cart The Thunderbolt.

Another team of seventh-graders called their cart-making firm Sky High Engineering.

“We knew we wanted to go above and beyond,” said seventh-grader Alex Kramer, 13.

North Star Engineering, another team, also competed in the cart contest.

“When you want to get where you’re going, rely on North Star Engineering guiding you to success,” Zach Krills, 13, said, introducing his team’s make-believe design firm.

We have 13 hard-working employees,” Adam Mitchell, 12, told the panel of judges.

Following each team’s presentation, judges struggled to pick a clear winner.

“It was a very difficult decision,” Jackie Removcik, curriculum director, told the teams. “Every group had strengths.”

Technology education teacher Geary said he probably learned more than his students from their collective assignment.

“You truly did an amazing job,” he told them, “I was flabbergasted. … Thanks for all your work.”

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