St. Joseph’s Academy captured first place in the 2016 Shell STEM Showdown. Participating students brought home a $3,500 award to enhance the STEM curriculum at SJA.
The contest, part of the Great Minds in STEM program, was held December 2 at the University of New Orleans.
Great Minds in STEM brings high school freshmen and sophomores together with college captains who are majoring in a STEM field. SJA fielded two teams for the competition, both of which worked with college students from Louisiana State University. Three of the LSU students are graduates of SJA: Emily Zeller, Sarah Ellis and Linda Shea.
In addition to hearing lectures about career opportunities in STEM fields, the students competed in two challenges: building a motorized crane using limited materials and building a robot, then programming it to run through a series of mazes.
One of SJA’s teams captured third place in the crane challenge, with each team member receiving a set of Bluetooth speakers. Throughout the competition, participants were judged on safety and cleanliness of their work areas and other factors which combined for the final score.
Sophomore Grace Wisdom said the challenge competitions were fast paced and exciting. “I loved making the crane and the robot because they gave us so much freedom to make our creations amazing and truly discover things for ourselves,” she said. “At the end of the day, when they announced awards, hearing SJA’s name called as the winner was an amazing feeling. To have helped my team take the trophy home made me feel proud of my school. It was something I would definitely go back and do again if I could.”
Freshman Noelle Defee said the experience was exhilarating. “It was great being able to team up with my friends and students I hadn’t met before in order to face each of the challenges while having fun,” she said. “We had such a great time working with college students and discussing what they do and hope to do in the future. There was a huge air of competition, yet everyone was so supportive of each other. We worked together to create functioning cranes; build robots and program them to go through different mazes; ate some great pizza; and talked to engineers about what they do. I even had the opportunity to talk to a mechanical engineer who graduated from the college I want to attend. I hope to go into mechanical engineering, and he gave me a good perspective of what he does and how he worked to achieve it.”
Sophomore Eden Landry said the competition pushed her out of her comfort zone. “I was challenged in so many ways and was given the chance to try new things that I hadn’t done before,” she said. “I had the opportunity to work alongside a great group of girls. We wouldn’t have been able to get everything done without our great mentors, too. They cheered us on and encouraged us to do our best the entire time. I am so glad I was able to attend the Shell STEM Showdown.”
Sophomore Grace Richardson said winning the Showdown came as a tremendous surprise. “We didn’t realize how well we had really done in all the challenges, so when they said we won first place, we were ecstatic,” she said. “I was really impressed with how well we all worked together as a team, considering we didn’t have much experience working together.”
Freshman Emma Perrault said the competition created an interest in a STEM career. “Wiring the motors was my favorite part of this activity,” she said. “This sparked a personal interest in electrical engineering. I see that I have a passion for STEM and would like to pursue a career in this area in the future. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to participate in this inspiring event.”
Sophomore Hannah Vautrot said the showdown was both stressful and fun. “I love problem solving, and this was the perfect avenue to do it,” she said. “I loved working with my team members. Despite some things going wrong, everyone kept a positive attitude. I want to go into some sort of STEM field when I grow older, and being able to talk with SJA alumnae about their college experience so far was very helpful. When we were announced as the winners, we all started screaming and jumped up and down. As we were waiting to take a picture, one of our college mentors tackle-hugged me saying, ‘You are so awesome!’ I had so much fun and learned so much about my own abilities that day.”
Freshman Faith Woods said the STEM Showdown exceeded her expectations. “We all expected to have lots of fun while being challenged, and we were right,” she said. “It was so much fun. I can now officially say that I have built a robot. I was caught almost completely off guard when they said that we won. Not only did we get an amazing trophy and medals but also $3,500 for SJA. I am so proud to help do this for my school.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of John Richardson
Date posted: December 8, 2016