Fifth-graders Sahana Kumar, Kristina Kerr, Josh’sheem Perry and Kolton Sutter built an amusement park ride powered by green energy together.
“It’s Zero Gravity. It uses solar and wind. Solar panels are here on the side, Kerr explained. “Solar panels power our ride, and our amusement park is in Florida, so it’s always sunny.”
Kumar, Perry and Sutter each explained a facet of the project. They said they were nervous to present. But they seemed excited, too.
More than 100 grandparents came to breakfast and the fifth-grade K’nex challenge on Dec. 21, at Northwestern Elementary School.
Over the last month, fifth-graders grouped in small teams were tasked with designing an amusement park that promotes green energy.
As a team, students had to build one ride from their park with K’nex, write an essay describing the project, create blueprints, manage a budget and inventory sheet and prepare a five-minute presentation.
"Students were challenged to use as many K’nex pieces in as many was as they could and to push themselves to be creative,” fifth-grade teacher and K’nex team adviser Greg Clapper said. “Through this, they’re learning to listen, express their ideas and collaborate with others. It teaches them how to work with others that have different skill sets and to accept different ways of seeing things.”
The team that built Zero Gravity said they had to try three or four times before they had a good plan. They said they felt teamwork was the biggest thing they learned through the experience.
Classmate Madison Anderson – who with her teammates built hydro-powered Sunset Glory – said she agrees.
“Through this, you learn how to live with conflict,” Anderson said.
Teams practiced presentations for grandparents with the goal of gaining valuable feedback, advice and experience.
Students then gave final presentations that afternoon for a panel of judges. The highest scoring teams will start practice for the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit’s annual STEM K’nex Design Challenge in March, where the first-place team moves on to the state competition.
Clapper announced the winners of the competition here: https://sites.google.com/site/mrclappersclassroompage/home/k-nex-results
“Most schools do this as part of an enrichment program,” Clapper said. “We are one of the few schools that actually do it schoolwide. And we were the state champs three years ago – our first year – with a non-enrichment team.”
Last year Northwestern’s teams just missed making it to the state competition, placing second and fourth place at the IU’s competition in Edinboro.
Clapper said the K’nex challenge not only ties into key STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum, but also gives students an opportunity to practice other crucial skills necessary in today’s fast paced world.
Clapper said, this year, fifth-grade teachers have been focusing on the idea to “respond, but not react.”
“This event allows the students to practice not saying the first thing that they’re feeling, but instead to stop and think before they answer a person back,” Clapper said. “It teaches them how to focus on the task at hand – not the stress they are feeling.”
Northwestern is one of 350 schools statewide that participate in the K’Nex Design Challenge.
Lifelong Albion businessman and resident Jim Mikovch said it was his first time coming to this event at Northwestern elementary. He came to see his grandson, Cole.
“What a tremendous change from when we were back in school to what’s available now,” Mikovch said. “Northwestern School District is such a great school district – the faculty are nice, the facilities are nice and clean. I’m very proud to live in this district.”
Check out more pics of challenge day here: