On February 25, five Red Lion students traveled to the Lincoln Intermediate Unit #12 in New Oxford to showcase their self-constructed project to judges and compete in various challenges. The Red Lion STEM team ending up taking first place in the regional competition and now they are on their way to the state competition to be held on May 27 in Lancaster.
“The STEM competition is a part of the Governor’s STEM Initiative,” Mentor-teacher Mr. Ben Smith said. “They had to create a project, using a $500 budget, that will improve the lives of everyday Pennsylvanians.”
Seniors Garrett Aguilar, Jen Owrutsky, Chris Balbier, and Gabriella Zarragoitia and junior Josh Kovacs prepared by researching and interviewing various engineers and companies in the local area. The entire process took place outside of classroom time, with the team often staying after school to complete their project.
“I thought it was cool because we got to use a real budget and we got to make something that’s real and actually affects the real-world,” Owrutsky said. “It was a good experience for when we’re going to be engineers in the future.”
With a real-world problem to solve, the team had to decide on what issues the average Pennsylvanian had to overcome on a daily basis.
“We sat down, brainstormed ideas and asked ‘what’s wrong with around here?’” Balbier said. “The first idea we thought of was pipes freezing in the winter because it gets too cold and we didn’t really know how to fix that. Obviously the roads are pretty terrible, so that was what we tried to fix.”
While at the competition itself, the team showcased their project and answered questions from judges, while also participating in the “mystery box event,” in which they could not prepare for.
“I feel like as a team, we really worked together,” Owrutsky said. “Especially for the on-site competition that we had.”
With their success in the regional competition, the STEM team now has a higher budget to design and build with, and they plan on conducting additional research to further improve the pothole-detecting prototype.
“If we win the whole thing, or if we place well, the scholarship money will be nice,” Balbier said. “I think that if we win the whole thing, we might possibly have an actual product that could be used by the state and by other states.”
The team’s success will shine bright for their future careers in STEM fields, with the seniors already committed to attending college for degrees in science and engineering.
“They really embrace young people in the community,” Owrutsky said. “So I think with being teenagers and seniors in high school I think we have a better opportunity right now to compete, win, and get recognized.”
“Like Mr. Smith always says, this country’s a million engineers short, so there’s room for the field to grow,” Zarragoitia said. “Young people have a lot of ideas that they can bring to the table.”