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‘Mad’ about engineering

Students at Holy Redeemer School learned about engineering concepts by creating such designs that involve the trapping of Zhu Zhus and catapulting Gummy bears

December 21, 2011
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - In a fun, educational way, a number of students at Holy Redeemer School tackled four hands-on engineering tasks as part of a "Mad Challenge" elective class the past six weeks.

For an hour every Wednesday, instructors Kathy Richardson and Sharon Wenker encouraged their students to create engineering designs to meet four challenges - Gummy Bear Catapults, Marble Roller Coasters, Circle of Bouncy and Zhu Zhu Trapping.

"Our goal was to teach the process of engineering design," Richardson said. "Ask, what is the challenge, what are the constraint? Imagine, think of possible solutions. Plan, draw the design. Create, build and test the design and Improve, make improvements.

Article Photos

Photo by Jenny Kirk
Joe Sullivan, left, Connor Metz and Sophie Buysse scored the highest in the “Don’t Lose Your Marbles” roller coaster challenge Wednesday at Holy Redeemer School. The winning team is pictured with Kathy Richardson, right, who, along with teacher Sharon Wenker, organized four different engineering design challenges for students who signed up for the elective class.

Students Sam Garvey and Logan Wherry came up with the best design for Zhu Zhu trapping.

"It was a simple design that turned out to work pretty good," Garvey said. "It was fun."

The challenge was to construct a trap that could catch and transfer the "dangerous" creatures without touching them. The ultimate test was to see how many Zhu Zhus could be transferred in two minutes. Eligible building materials included string, yarn, Popsicle sticks, paper, tagboard, tape, scissors, cardboard, ice cream buckets and rulers.

"The biggest challenge was finding a way so the trap doesn't fall apart with the weight of the Zhu Zhu," Garvey said. "We ended up adding a straw on the bottom for support."

The winning team also used another straw as the trigger and a string for lifting the trap one a Zhu Zhu was captured.

"It was very fun for me," Wherry said. "The best part was building and talking with my friends about it."

Sophie Buysse, Joe Sullivan and Connor Metz scored the highest of all the students on the "Don't Lose Your Marbles" roller coaster challenge, which included building a freestanding structure that had a track on which a marble could travel, using a paper towel ring and tape. Points were awarded for varying obstacles. Teams received one point for each centimeter of height and five points for each 90-degree angle in the track. They could also pick up one point for each marble that successfully travels the entire length of the track, but does not land in the cup. For each marble that successfully reaches the cup, five points was awarded.

"We tried to get the marble into the cup without letting it get stuck along the way," Metz said. "It was pretty hard to do."

The biggest challenge, Richardson said, is getting students to actually plan.

"They want to build it before drawing the design," she said. "Another challenge is encouraging them to listen to each other's ideas. The best projects are the result of collaboration, rather than one person doing all the work."

Ryan VanMoer, Monica Timmerman and MacKenzie Gladis built the best ball-delivering device in the "Circle of Bouncy" challenge.

"The advantage of taking a class like this is that it gives students the opportunity to learn something they find interesting in an alternative setting," Richardson said. "The electives are pass/fail and are usually hands-on as opposed to traditional grading/learning."

Blaise Andries, Austin Klaith and Nicholas Dunn build the winning "Gummy Bear Catapult" challenge.

"I think the students loved most of the challenges," Richardson said. "They seem to be motivated when given a challenge and then a few choices in solving the problem. We had few to no behavior or safety problems due to their high level of engagement in the challenges."

Besides the "Mad Challenge" elective, HRS students also had the opportunity to choose nutrition, fitness, scrap-a-card, jean quilts, hearts and spades or book club classes during the second quarter.



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