By Keith Gushard
“It’s cool to see if you can build a car that goes faster than anybody else’s,” Nick Johns said.
Johns was one of about 50 students taking part Saturday in the 19th annual Technology Challenge at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania sponsored by the Technology Education Association of Northwestern Pennsylvania and the Erie Engineering Societies Council.
Johns, a ninth-grade student at Cambridge Springs High School, hopes to be come an engineer, but hasn’t determined what type as of yet.
“You learn how to make it better and go faster,” said Mason Meszaros, another ninth-grader from Cambridge Springs High who also was participating.
Both teens said they like having to problem solve and develop ideas to make something work better.
That’s the whole idea of the annual program, according to Bill Moats, program coordinator for the Technology Education Association of Northwestern Pennsylvania.
“We’re helping teach students how to design a project from start to finish,” said Moats, who is a technology education teacher at Edinboro’s James W. Parker Middle School. “They begin with prototypes, problem solve, work with materials, develop the actual product, test the product and get feedback.”
Students in grades seven through 12 from Crawford, Erie and Warren counties participated in the annual program with projects broken down by grade levels.
This year, the seventh- and eighth-grade students had to design and build a mousetrap-powered car that pushed a block to an exact point like shuffleboard. If the car traveled too far, or not far enough, points were deducted.
The ninth- and 10th-grade assignment had students design and manufacture a carbon dioxide-fueled vehicle that could travel a set distance in the shortest time, similar to a drag race.
The 11th- and 12th-grade students’ assignment was to design and manufacture a wind turbine that generated maximum power in a set time period using wind provided from a simple box fan.
Students competing in the challenge were given a set of parameters for their respective projects, and were graded on craftsmanship and creativity, drawing requirements, and oral and written documentation reports by 10 judges, all of whom have engineering and technology expertise.
But the program is just for students like Johns and Meszaros, according to John Kieffer, a technical education teacher at General McLane High School in Edinboro, who chaired the ninth- and 10th-grade car program.
“The kids learn problem solving skills, but what we (teachers) get out of it is it allows us to compare our programs with other schools,” Kieffer said.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on technical career opportunities: Contact the Erie Engineering Societies Council, 143 W. Seventh St., Erie, at (814) 871-7621.