Rocky Fork Enterprise

STEM competition

Gahanna team advances with 'Quake Safe' house

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The design of an earthquake-proof house is taking three Gahanna Middle School East students to a national judging and educational event June 16-20 in Washington, D.C.

Julia Bray, Luke Clay and Ashton Cofer make up a local sixth-grade team that has been selected as one of 20 regional first-place winners in the 12th annual eCybermission competition.

The Web-based science, technology, engineering and math program, sponsored by the U.S. Army and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), encourages students in grades 6-9 to develop solutions to real-world challenges in their communities.

The Gahanna team designed what they call a "Quake Safe" house. As a regional winner, each team member already has won a $2,000 savings bond and an all-expenses-paid trip to compete for the first-place national award. Each team member also won a $1,000 savings bond for his or her state.

Following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, Ashton Cofer said, the team wanted to find a solution to the poorly built buildings in Haiti.

"The problem was building structure," he said. "The material we used for our structure was bamboo. It's very strong. It can go up to 30 feet and have a diameter up to 6 inches. It's the ideal structure for a building."

Cofer said bamboo also could be grown locally in Haiti, so that makes it affordable.

Clay said the team worked together on the project, from making a scale model to conducting vibration tests at Battelle Labs in Columbus.

The team has been working on the project two times a week after school since last August, Cofer said.

Haruna Cofer is the team's mentor.

"The eCybermission program is giving our students the unique opportunity to take their project well-beyond just an idea and share it with elected officials and public media to help make their Quake Safe house a reality for communities in need," she said.

While the three team members attend Gahanna Middle School East, the group meets independently outside school.

While in Washington, the team will meet with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and is scheduling a meeting with Architecture for Humanity, an international nonprofit organization that brings design, construction and development services to communities in need.

As part of the competition, teams of three or four students choose a topic related to one of seven mission challenges that affect their community: alternative sources of energy, the environment, food, health and fitness, force and motion, national security and safety, robotics and technology. After teams select their mission challenge, they apply the scientific practices or engineering design process to propose a solution. Each team then submits a mission folder, the official write-up of their project, through the eCybermission website.

The regional winning teams were chosen from a group of 80 finalists. A panel of judges comprising U.S. Army scientists and engineers, educators and STEM professionals selected the regional winners on the basis of several criteria, including the students' virtual presentations and a question-and-answer session with the judges.

"Congratulations to this year's regional winners for their outstanding work," said Bill Badders, NSTA president. "I wish them the best of luck as they advance to the finals. We also congratulate the team advisers for their efforts to promote STEM education and mentor students to succeed in the competition."

The Washington trip is part of a weeklong event that focuses on educational opportunities and team-building exercises. This year's event features a STEM challenge, where students will participate in STEM demonstrations and hands-on activities. They also will go on field trips to the National Mall and museums and conclude with an awards luncheon with U.S. Army leadership, with the national winning team from each grade announced.

For more information, visit ecybermission.com or call 1-866-GO-CYBER.

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