, Muskogee, OK

Local News

February 6, 2013

Students put engineering in action

Contest shows prowess in math, design

— Alice Robertson Junior High students Phillip Lafave and Chris Spinks had just gotten their tower to shoulder height.

One rolled sheet of paper atop the other. One ... more ... sheet. Then, it tumbled to the floor.

“Plan B! Plan B!” Phillip exclaimed as he and Chris scurried to build their tower with two-rolls for each level instead of one.

Such deadline ingenuity could be seen throughout the Civic Center Tuesday morning as students from 23 schools competed in the Mathematics and Engineering Design Competition.

In the arena, 175 students from elementary through high school tested their engineering mettle and nerves in two competitions:

• To build the highest tower using only office paper and tape.

• To get their mousetrap operated vehicle to go the farthest.

A total of 338 students competed in math tests including algebra, geometry and advanced math. The competition was sponsored by Indian Capital Technology Center, Muskogee Area Educational Consortium and the Oklahoma School of Science and Math.

“The competition allows students to do math and science and to learn while doing.” said Edna McMillan, ICTC administrator for instructional and student services. “They’re also investigating colleges and careers related to science.”

McMillan said workers skilled in science, technology, engineering and math are in high demand.

Students “competed” in the Manufacturer’s Challenge. Students were to visit booths sponsored by area manufacturers and ask what they make, what types of engineers do they hire and what degrees must employees have. Manufacturers attending were Advantage Controls, Georgia-Pacific, V&M TCA and Acme Engineering and Manufacturing. Students who fill out their answer sheets were eligible for a drawing for a robotics kit or a Kindle Fire.

Area colleges including Connors State College, Northeastern State University and Rogers State University also had exhibits.

Warner School Superintendent David Vinson said the engineering fair “is where students learn to appreciate what they learned in class.”

“It brings to life situations in their classes that can apply to problem-solving skills,” Vinson said. “You also see teams working together.”

Fort Gibson Middle School student Connor Livingston said he and classmate Michael Thompson spent two weeks in class working to get their mousetrap car operating.

The vehicle used axles and wheels from toy cars that were duct-taped to the mousetrap. On the first try, the car went 12 feet.

Challengers Max James and Latham Weaver from Hilldale followed, but had some trouble getting their contraption going. Whatever they did to fix it worked. The thing made from four CDs, pens and paint-stirring sticks went 74 feet. On a second run, the contraption went 30 feet before veering off course and moving the distance of the arena.

Max said the looser wheels and good traction were their secret.

“We put balloons on the back tires to give them more traction,” Max said, showing the rubber around the CDs. “We made it (the axles) loose on the sides so its spins faster. We hollowed out ball point pens and put tips on both sides. All the ones that were tighter wheels only went five feet.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or

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