More than 100 students from 19 high schools put their engineering expertise to the test on June 1 in the 18th annual Boston University Design Competition, held at the FitRec Center. Working alone or in teams of two, students competed for the chance to earn Boston University tuition scholarships.
Using items like LEGOs, plexiglass and wads of duct tape, students designed 12-inch-square vehicles that were 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 while being closest to the center line at the top of the ramp. No remote controls were allowed.
In the final round, juniors James Gaewsky and Andrew McGlathery of Reading (Mass.) Memorial High School defeated juniors Ethan Leeman and Benjamin Jaeger of Gann Academy in Waltham, Mass. Gaewsky and McGlathery, who also won the contest in 2006, each won an annual scholarship of $5,000 for four years, contingent on their admission and enrollment at the University. Leeman and Jaeger won the second-place prize of a $2,500 annual scholarship for four years. Third-place finishers Martir Bonilla and Arely Clavel of Brentwood (NY) High School each won a $100 Barnes and Noble gift certificate.
Entering the competition for their third and final year, Gaewsky and McGlathery felt a sturdier, more reliable vehicle was the key to another first-place finish. The exterior of their vehicle was made of a clear, hard plastic cover and a stainless steel base that protected the interior electrical components.
“The competition and vehicles just keep getting better each year,” McGlathery said. “After last year, we knew we needed to perform some ‘surgery’ on our vehicle, but our major design never changed. It’s interesting to take what you learn from one year to the next and apply it to your design.”
While most teams went home without a prize, they were determined to use that experience to come back with an even better vehicle next year.
“I had done robotics on the junior high level, but nothing like this,” Braintree (Mass.) High School freshman David Richardson said. “I have a few ideas of what I’m going to change. I definitely think I’ll come back with a better robot next year.”
From the initial design to the construction of a working vehicle, students received hands-on experience in various aspects of engineering.
“It’s fascinating to see the different designs that each team has,” said Brentwood High School junior Nicole Franco, who finished in fourth place. “I get the same excitement from building the vehicle as I do from competing. I love the spirit and mentality of that type of engineering.”
Additional awards were given to schools that displayed enthusiasm and creativity. Boston Latin Academy won the Best Team Spirit Award for the second consecutive year, and Reading Memorial High School won Most Innovative Design. Willie Dawkins and Zaki Lindo of Brentwood High School won Best Performing Freshman Student Design.
The Boston University Design Competition is part of the College of Engineering’s 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.