Student games feed hunger for engineering
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
10/31/12 at 7:30 AM
Teams of three to four students marched into the gym at Tulsa Community College's Northeast Campus on Tuesday morning carrying their teams' flags. Some dressed alike in matching bandanas, wigs and headgear.
Then the groups started on their first challenge, and the first Engineer Games had begun.
The event is modeled after the popular book series "The Hunger Games."
High school students from 10 schools were chosen to participate in the games, much like the reaping ceremony in the book series, in which names are drawn from a bowl.
The Edison Preparatory High School team, made up of freshman in the introduction to engineering class, chose as their team uniform blazers with gym shorts.
"We wanted to be casually dressed up," said Edison student Evan Byrd, who liked the "Hunger Games" theme of the competition. "It made it fun. Our teacher turned our names in and drew (them) out of a fish bowl."
The students, called tributes, worked together on four engineering challenges - building a gravity-fed machine that makes lemonade; building a catapult; building a tower from trash; and building a motorcycle out of K'Nex toy pieces, where only one team member knew what the finished product was supposed to look like.
Xan Black is coordinator of the Tulsa Alliance for Engineering, the group that sponsored and organized the Engineering Games.
"We're hitting them with engineering from all different angles," Black said. "It's not just all robotics, it's not just all anything. It's creative problem solving."
The Tulsa Alliance for Engineering is a partnership among TCC, the University of Tulsa, Tulsa Technology Center, Oral Roberts University, Oklahoma State University-Tulsa and the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. The alliance was formed two years ago with the goal of better educating, developing, recruiting and retaining engineers in the Tulsa area.
The competition showed the students different aspects and challenges of engineering.
"It's a huge field. You can find something you like," said Tommy Scott, an Edison team member.
The different tasks, especially the catapult assignment, also showcased that there is often more than one way to solve a problem.
"Brains work differently, so you get different outcomes," Scott said.
Working on a team is important because "you can compile the best ideas."
Cascia Hall Preparatory School took first place in the competition. Holland Hall took second and Broken Arrow High School placed third. Besides Edison, other schools that participated were McLain, Rogers, Jenks, Bixby and Union high schools and Tri County Technology Center in Bartlesville.
Brenda Irving, a pre-engineering instructor at Tri County, said competing at the Engineering Games is an invaluable lesson for her students.
"It's really good experience. They meet other kids, get the opportunity to work with professionals, and it's hands-on," she said. "They'll get out of their box and perform on a different level."
Black said she's already thinking about new challenges and projects for next year's event, which likely will have to accommodate twice as many students.
"For the first year, I wanted to start small and build and grow," she said. "There will be totally different things next year."
Original Print Headline: Hunger for engineering
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
Union High School sophomore Zac Williams lets go of a racket ball propeller as he tests his team's catapult during Engineering Games. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Union High School sophomores Brandon Alexander (left) and Daniel Buchheim work together to build a toy motorcycle during Engineering Games, a challenge for high school students coordinated by the Tulsa Alliance for Engineers and modeled after the Hunger Games, on Tuesday. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Engineering mentor Suzanne Dodson (center), a chemical engineer with Magellan Midstream Partners, and Holland Hall students Sarah Keglovits (back, from left), Cici Zhou and Will Booker celebrate as their racket ball hits the target in the catapult competition at Tuesday's Engineering Games. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Emily Ratliff (right) and Mitchell Donley, both seniors at Jenks High School, wear "wise man" beards as they stack cups to make a gravity-fed lemonade mixer at the Engineering Games on Tuesday. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World