BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield High School hosted its third annual NJ STEM League competition Thursday, May 4. Originally, 10 schools were to participate April 20 but standardized testing postponed the event and only three schools could meet last week. Besides BHS, the competitors were Passaic Valley and Edison high schools. However, each school was allowed to enter two five-student teams.
The project was to fabricate a model of a building that could withstand an earthquake. The STEM Club advisor at BHS is Michael Warholak.
“We almost had to cancel,” he said. “We kept it alive because of two schools.”
Teams only learned what they had to do after they arrived for the competition.
“I came up with the idea because we had a slight earthquake in New Jersey about a month ago,” Warholak said. “Kids were joking about it because of where we live.
But I told them they had to be concerned with it. We don’t keep up with natural disasters. This project was an engineer’s dream.”
The two BHS teams consisted of Grace Perrotta; Daven Howard; Michael Brzostek; Aylie Maslowski; and Annie Reynolds, on Team 1. Team 2 had Angiel Luque; Olivia Brzostek; Gina Perrotta; Hanna Ruiz; and Chad Lawrence.
Scoring was done in four categories: model design; determining how the design embodies STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; testing the design; and team presentations to a panel of judges.
The event took up the entire school day in “the Pit,” a small, first-floor gymnasium. The students worked at tables and presented their model to the judges in an equipment room, for privacy.
The judges included a geologist from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection; an engineer from Picatinny Arsenal; a representative from McGraw Hill Publishers, which provided breakfast for the teams; and a medical student and former BHS graduate. The judges asked the students what were they thinking when they came up with the design; how did the project evolve; the teamwork employed; and if they had to do it all over again, what would they do differently.
The materials used to make the models were styrofoam, straws, marbles, toothpicks, glue, and plastic spools. Testing of the model was done using a board on springs. Warholak paid for all the materials.
“Nine dollars was the total layout for everything that was used to build the models,” he said.
Although neither of the home teams placed in the overall competition, BHS Team 1 was judged as having the best design documentation, and BHS Team 2 had the best presentation.
“Overall, the kids were engaged from eight this morning until they walked out the door,” Warholak said. “I spent $9 for materials for six teams. And without sounding cliched, as long as all the students are engaged, because the real work is what goes on at those tables. I heard engineer-speak relating to the problem. I hear those things and know we’re successful.”
Helping out with the event was Tasha Jackson; Tiffany Magno; Ethan Farabaugh; and Dominic Dominguez.