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Vernier announces 2015 Engineering Contest winners

Three STEM teachers each win $5,500 in prizes for their innovative use of Vernier sensors in teaching engineering concepts

STEM-engineeringVernier Software & Technology recently named the winners of its 2015 Engineering Contest. The three winning educators – Tate Rector of Beebe Public Schools in Beebe, Ariz.; Ross Gunderson of Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square, Pa.; and, Gioya De Souza-Fennelly of Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York, N.Y. were chosen for their innovative teaching of engineering concepts and practices using Vernier sensors in the classroom.

“The Vernier Engineering Contest provides a great opportunity for educators to share their best practices with other educators who are looking to incorporate data-collection technology into their own engineering instruction in new and creative ways,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and a former physics teacher. “This year’s winners all demonstrated truly innovative uses of sensor technology and exemplified how it can engage students in hands-on learning as they work through the engineering design process.”

Selected by a panel of Vernier educational experts, each winner received $1,000 in cash, $3,000 in Vernier technology, and $1,500 toward expenses to attend the 2015 National Science Teachers’ Association (NSTA) STEM Forum and Expo in Minneapolis, MN or the 2015 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Seattle, WA.

Next page: The winning projects


The submissions were judged on their innovation, engineering objectives, and the ease by which others can replicate the project. The panelists additionally took into consideration how the middle and high school submissions addressed the engineering practices called for in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

The winning projects

In “Hot Pocket Rocket,” Rector challenged his 8th grade engineering students to present a solution to an everyday problem (being burned on the roof of your mouth) using Vernier sensors with LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3. His goal was for students to make connections with the engineering practices identified in the NGSS.

In “Turning a Staple into a Light Bulb,” Gunderson had his students create a light bulb from an ordinary staple. This challenge, which was the culminating activity in his Materials Engineering course, focused on NGSS standard HS-PS3-3, in which students design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one energy form into another.

In “The Solar Oven,” De Souza-Fennelly, who teaches STEM/Physical Science Curriculum and Methods to pre-service science teachers, had her students design and conduct an original middle school/high school hands-on, physical science activity that uses engineering practices, as set forth by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). One activity challenged students to design a solar oven.

Other notable entries included “Transportation Safety Issues” by Jennifer Hutchinson of Colonia Middle School in Colonia, NJ; “Musical Instruments with Arduino” by Steve Cogger of Reading Memorial High School in Reading, MA; and, “Sustainability” by John Tompkins of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan.

To learn more about the 2015 Engineering Contest winners and to watch videos of the projects in action, visit To learn more about the 2016 Engineering Contest, visit

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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