High School Students Driven to Design


Students used a variety of parts to create their vehicles.
Students used a variety of parts to create their vehicles.

Some 116 students from 21 high schools and four states tested their engineering mettle in the 17th annual Boston University Design Competition on Sunday, June 3 at the FitRec Center. The students, working alone or in teams of two, competed for the chance to earn Boston University tuition scholarships.

Students designed 12-inch-square vehicles that were first required to descend an eight-foot ramp, drop a bean bag through a hole at the bottom, climb back up the ramp,  knock over a flag at the top and hold position against an opposing vehicle for victory. No remote controls were allowed.

In the final round, Nicole Repina and Camilla Yu of Newton South High School (MA) defeated Dustin Franco and Adam Sachs of the Cambridge School of Weston (MA). Repina and Yu each won an annual scholarship of $5,000 for four years, contingent on their admission and enrollment at the University. Franco and Sachs each won the second-place prize of a $2,500 annual scholarship for four years. Third-place finishers Daniel Gates and Michael Greiner of Morris Knolls High School in Rockaway, NJ  each won a $100 Barnes and Noble gift certificate.

In their second year of the competition, Repina and Yu knew that a sturdy, reliable vehicle was integral to outlasting the field of more than 50 teams. The exterior of their vehicle was made of Legos, duct tape, plastic and cardboard from a cereal box, which proved to be a sturdy combination.
“We were kind of scared going in because last year our vehicle fell off the ramp and shattered,” Repina said. “This year it fell but didn’t break-so we were really hoping to win after that.”

Throughout the competition, all the students experienced the highs and lows of designing and engineering their own vehicle.
“Getting a bean bag to drop into a hole sounds simple but it’s actually extremely difficult,” Hopkinton High School’s Andrew Ruggeri said. “But it’s cool just to build your own car from scratch and see it go up and down. Beating another team is always good, too.”

The Design Competition was hosted by Peter Cirak (ENG ’01, ’06), who was volunteering in the competition for the seventh year.

“The best part of the competition is seeing the enthusiasm and the energy of all the young people involved,” he said. “I’m not sure if they truly understand what they’re doing yet, but it’s just great to see a wide and diverse variety of young people getting excited about engineering.”

This year, for this first time, additional awards were given to schools who displayed enthusiasm and creativity. Boston Latin Academy won the Best Team Spirit Award, Reading Memorial High School won Most Innovative Design, and Gann Academy New Jewish High School won Best Performing Freshman Student Design.

The Boston University Design Competition is part of the College of Engineering K-12 Outreach Program, which sponsors several local and national efforts to engage young people’s natural curiosity about science and engineering. These efforts also include FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the U-Design summer program, the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium and the regional Science Bowl.

Boston Latin Academy won the Team Spirit Award.
Boston Latin Academy won the Team Spirit Award.