Brain power: Gifted Grandview elementary students win fourth Battle of the Brains

A team of Grandview elementary students demonstrated their brain power by winning the fourth Battle of the Brains competition with a project called “The Big Brain Theory.”

The 16 students and their two teachers will work with sponsor Burns & McDonnell to make their concept become a $1 million reality in a new, permanent exhibit at Science City at Union Station.

The station’s north hall was filled Thursday morning with excited finalist teams from schools across the region, each of which will receive a share of more than $155,000 in grants from the Burns & McDonnell Foundation.

Balloons fell and streamers flew when the team from the Grandview School District’s FOCUS program for gifted students was announced.

“I’m speechless,” teacher Vicki Adams said afterward with her beaming students. “I’m so proud of our children, our kids, how hard they worked. You’re looking at the team that worked the hardest and who really deserved to win. They had an amazing idea.”

Battle of the Brains is intended to encourage young people’s interest in science, technology, engineering and math, and it continues to grow. In this round, more than 7,000 students from 250 schools in 55 school districts participated and submitted 820 project ideas.

Twenty finalists were selected by engineers at Burns & McDonnell and Science City for their creativity and interactivity. A public online voting period, which counted for 30 percent of the final results, drew about 75,000 votes.

The winning Grandview students are Tonanci Aguilera-Gallegos, Zakery Davis, A’maris Dyke, Mariah Hayes, Robert Hayes-Givhan, Trinity Johnson, Devon Jones, Rhiamya Jones, Annalise Long, Danielle Matthews, Gabrielle McBride, Micah Rainey, Jordan Sanders, Khari Spaulding, Mya Wilson and Sebastian Williams. Their team leaders/teachers are Adams and Calvetta Leek.

Their project concept explores human health by looking at the brain and how it processes memory, regulates motor movement, and experiences the world through the senses of taste, touch, hearing, smell and vision. The challenge now is to turn that into a practical attraction at Science City. The Grandview kids will work with the Burns & McDonnell design and construction teams.

Each of the finalist teams will receive at least $2,500 to enhance science instruction in their schools. The Grandview team will receive $50,000. The second-place team from Cordill-Mason Elementary in the Blue Springs School District will receive $25,000 for a project called “Magical Me.” A team from Olathe East High School will receive $20,000 for a project called “The Magic of Magnets.” A team from Tonganoxie High School will receive $15,000 for a project called “City of Lights.” A team from Alexander Doniphan Elementary in the Liberty School District will receive $10,000 for a project called “Math Mania.”

More than 18,000 students have participated in Battle of the Brains since the first round in 2011. Many have gone on to study science and engineering in college. Burns & McDonnell, a global company based in Kansas City, has invested about $7 million in Science City since 2008. Officials believe it is in the company’s interest to encourage the engineers of the future.

“The caliber of ideas coming from students in the Kansas City area is mind-blowing,” said Burns & McDonnell CEO Ray Kowalik. “These are future engineers, architects and startup professionals. These kids are innovators today, and I can’t wait to see how they lead our great city — and perhaps our nation — tomorrow.”

Kowalik was not surprised that three of the top five projects in this round were submitted by elementary students. The winner of the last Battle of the Brains was also an elementary team.

“Some of the most creative ideas come from the grade school kids,” Kowalik said.

The 20 finalists were:




Focus Program-CAIR Building

Grandview (MO)

The Big Brain Theory

Wolf Springs Elementary

Blue Valley (KS)

Geology ROCKS!

Blue Springs High School

Blue Springs (MO)

Sound of Science

Cordill-Mason Elementary

Blue Springs (MO)

Magical Me

Delta Woods Middle School

Blue Springs (MO)

Going Viral: Making Learning Infectious

Olathe East High School

Olathe (KS)

The Magic of Magnets

Olathe North High School

Olathe (KS)

Makes Sense

Merriam Park Elementary

Shawnee Mission (KS)

Journey to the Abyss

Tonganoxie High School

Tonganoxie (KS)

City of Lights

The Barstow School

Private (MO)

Mission: Cosmos

John Paul II

Private (KS)

Power of the Swarm: From Nature to Robots

Eudora High School

Eudora (KS)

Living the Green Dream

Summit Technology Academy

Lee’s Summit (MO)

Science Stadium

Lee’s Summit High School

Lee’s Summit (MO)

Perfect Timing

Hawthorn Hill Elementary

Lee’s Summit (MO)

Mesozoic Mayhem

Alexander Doniphan Elementary

Liberty (MO)

Math Mania

Liberty North High School

Liberty (MO)

Full STEAM Ahead

Alexander Doniphan Elementary

Liberty (MO)

Captivating Chemistry

Ridgeview Elementary

Liberty (MO)

Cranium Craze

Northland Innovation Center/SAGE Center

North Kansas City (MO)

Colorful Science

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC