Local teams earn three of five awards given at competition
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Eleven eighth grade students from Royalton Middle/High School recently acquired various new skills through a challenge building devices using fluid power.
“It taught me to use tools — to think of how to make something work,” said Brittny Tiemann.
Last spring, adviser Marty Bratsch invited certain students to participate in the Challenge. “I looked at those with better grades or those who showed interest,” he said.
In November, the team members went down to St. Paul to the University of Minnesota for a workshop day, where they learned about fluid power by building a pneumatic lifter.
Then they took their kits, including tools and supplies, back to school. Over the next few weeks, the teams worked on the Challenge scenario and design, developed a portfolio, and built and tested a prototype for their fluid power mechanisms.
“We received a toolkit and two materials boxes in our Challenge kit,” said Lanae Sieben. “We could only use items in the Challenge kit to build the device. One materials kit was for the prototype and one for the Challenge device.”
“We had a drawing of a footprint, and the device had to fit in that footprint,” said Alicia Tresco.
“Fluid power is both hydraulics and pneumatics,” said Alli Moga. “These designs use pneumatics — air and not water.”
The students formed three teams of three or four people. They had to design their own device and then build the device using fluid power to make it move. Then they had to put together a portfolio about the process.
“I told them that I wouldn’t do it for them, but would give as much direction as I could,” Bratsch said. “It was going to be their initiative which would see it to the end.”
The competition was scheduled for Dec. 10, but a snowstorm the day before caused that to be cancelled. The teams appreciated the extra month to work on their projects.
“We had to do most of it in our free time, since we weren’t in Mr. Bratsch’s class this year,” Moga said.
Eight of the team members were in sports, so much of the work was done on weekends, over Thanksgiving break and Christmas break.
The Challenge was held Jan. 7. Although there had originally been 20 teams registered, only 16 made it that day.
The teams had three hours to use their design and their materials to build the devices. They did not have their prototypes to use for models.
“Too many teams were not done after three hours, so it was increased to about four,” said Janeille Schaubhaut.
Only four of the 16 teams’ devices worked when it came time to demonstrate them. Two of those four teams were from Royalton.
“We forgot one 3-inch piece of wood,” said Tresko.
There were five awards given at the Challenge, and Royalton earned three of them.
The teamwork award went to the Royalton team whose device didn’t work.
“The judges didn’t only look at the final product, they looked at the whole process,” Bratsch said.
“It was stressful,” said Sieben. “We had to not get mad when someone dissed our ideas.”
“We didn’t have to be good at everything,” said Molly Presler. “Everyone had their own strengths.”
“The reward was going up on stage and finding out that we were one of the teams who received an award,” said Schaubhaut.
“It was scary because ours was the last group called and the other two Royalton teams had already been called to receive awards,” said Moga.
In addition to the teamwork trophy, Royalton teams earned the team challenge champion for the best operating device, and the overall champion for their teamwork, portfolio, machine operation and answering judges questions.
The team challenge champion earned 36 points, with the next team behind them earning 24 points.
“This was the first year Royalton entered teams in this event,” Bratsch said. “There’s a good possibility we’ll go back in the future. These kids want to learn; they are students who take it to the next level.”
Team members want to encourage younger students to participate if asked. They agreed that if a student likes a challenge and fun too, to definitely do it.
“If you’re good at teamwork, with a little bit of math and a little bit of science, then you can do it,” said Moga.
“My favorite part was working with my team,” said Nathan Psyck. “I started out thinking the Challenge was really hard, but it turned out to be easy.”
Royalton’s Technology Club, advised by Bratsch, builds projects such as solar boats and electric cars. They participate n the South Dakota State Engineering Expo and the St. John’s University Expo every year.
“The kids use the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum, but the go beyond that to language arts in writing their portfolio,” Bratsch said. “They have to work together if anything’s going to be successful. This is a unique group of students.”