Budding engineers at Mason Elementary School in Lee’s Summit came up with the idea for what will be the first outdoor exhibit at Science City.
The nine students, ranging from third to sixth grade, were the grand prize winners in the third Battle of the Brains competition, it was announced in a joyous gathering Wednesday at Union Station.
“They are over the moon,” said their teacher and team leader, Jenny Reidlinger. “They are thrilled out of their minds.”
The concept submitted by the Mason Elementary students was titled “Not-So-Simple Simple Machines Playground.” It envisions a tornado-like slide that resembles a large screw, a pulley-powered zip line, a merry-go-round fashioned like a large tire on an axle and other interactive attractions that illustrate the basics of engineering.
The Burns & McDonnell Foundation, which sponsors the Battle of the Brains, has set aside $1 million to create the exhibit. The company also will contribute the services of its engineers, who will work with the Mason team to make the concept a reality.
A team of nine students from Pleasant Ridge High School in Easton, Kan., won first place in the secondary school division. Their entry was called “Cultivating the City” and focused on urban agriculture using green technology.
The goal of Battle of the Brains is to encourage students to embrace science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“These are the kids that are going to be so important to our national security, to the furtherance of health care,” said Greg Graves, chairman and chief executive officer of Burns & McDonnell. “All the important things we need to accomplish in this country will be accomplished by kids like this who understand that a STEM education is a great path forward.”
Graves also had a message for parents attending the awards ceremony: “STEM students are least likely to move back in with their parents.”
A record 5,300 students participated in 520 entries from 210 schools for the third Battle of the Brains competition. Twenty finalists were selected by a panel of judges. Thirty percent of the final scoring was determined by more than 70,000 votes cast online.
Both winning teams will receive $50,000 for their schools to be used for STEM programs. Most of the finalists received $2,500 for their schools and the runners-up received $5,000. In all, the foundation made $155,000 in grants.
About 300 excited student finalists and their supporters gathered in the North Waiting Room at Union Station for the announcement ceremony Wednesday.
“This is the Oscars of science,” said Union Station CEO George Guastello, “and you’re here at the red carpet and you are all superstars.”
Reidlinger, who teaches the program at Mason for gifted students, said the winning team represented several classes at the school.
Team members were Paden Cole, Zyza Cooley, Myah Frashier, Ben Guthrie, Reagan Parker, Eden Wheeler, Selah Wheeler, Bella Washburn and Julia Washburn.
“It is a group of go-getters,” Reidlinger said of the kids. “They’re super creative, always looking for the next enrichment project they can get their hands on. They just came together to form this team... They play off each other. The ideas just start circling and they just get bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s fabulous.”