Lubbock ISD students race cardboard boats in middle school STEM challenge
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Karen Michael. June 09, 2017.

The thrill of victory and the sogginess of defeat merged at the 2017 Middle School STEM Challenge on Friday, when students from 10 Lubbock Independent School District middle schools competed in races of cardboard boats they made.
A team from Hutchinson Middle School took first place, followed by teams from O.L. Slaton and Smylie Wilson, who tied for second place. Hutchinson will take home the Dwyer Cup, named for program creator Jerry Dwyer.
This is the fourth year of the Middle School STEM Challenge, which is hosted by LISD and the Texas Tech STEM Center for Outreach, Research and Education, or STEM CORE. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
Teams worked all week on mini-challenges to test their engineering skills and to learn concepts about buoyancy for the competition. When they won a mini-challenge, they won supplies of cardboard or duct tape to make their boats.
Each team had four students from one of the 10 middle schools participating. Each of those students had to be paddling on the cardboard boat during its maiden voyage on Friday morning, which was also the competition run.
Because the boats were made of cardboard, some didn’t make it all the way across the pool and back at the Pete Ragus Aquatic Center. One just gradually sank. Another narrow boat tipped over when it first went into the water.
But others glided across the water, more or less headed in the direction the students seemed to want them to go in. There was one collision during the most hotly contested race, but although a student lost an oar, neither boat sank.
Two students who were in the STEM challenge talked about their week on Thursday.
Andrew Reynoso, who just finished up eighth grade at Mackenzie MS, said he wished his team could have tested its boat before the races on Friday. He was so enthusiastic about the project that he made a smaller boat at home one night to test it out.
Erin Duggan, who will be in eighth grade at Talkington School for Young Women Leaders, said her team built a scale model to see if the design would work. They really worried that they would not finish their boat in time because they spent that time working on the scale model. As it turned out, the extra time planning helped them put together their boat more quickly, she said.
Andrew said he moved to Lubbock from Utah last year and marveled that a district offered such an experience.
“When I moved here, I was amazed. All of the things at the (Byron Martin Advanced Training Center) ATC, all of these things they want to do with STEM, UIL, it’s amazing. I’m learning things, getting to do things with my hands, things that I can apply in the future. I want to be a mechanical engineer. I’m learning all of these things, getting all of these experiences that I’d never be able to do in Utah. I love it,” he said.
Erin was also grateful for the opportunity to participate in the STEM challenge.
“This opened up the STEM field for me, so now I’m kind of thinking that I want to work my way to that in the future. This has helped me figure out that this is what I want to do,” she said.
Jessica Spott, senior program administrator for STEM CORE at Texas Tech, said statements like those from Andrew and Erin make the whole effort worthwhile.
“That makes me excited,” Spott said after hearing the duo talk about their enthusiasm for STEM following the program.
Erin’s team of Talkington Warriors won fourth place in the races Friday. Even though they didn’t win, she said, “I’m proud of our results.”
She also learned from observing the other students’ efforts. Although her team focused on building a smaller boat, she said she was surprised to see that some larger boats were successful.
“Some big ones worked. I was underestimating those. But some capsized,” Erin said.

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