While their peers are enjoying downtime from hitting the books, two teams of St. Charles Preparatory School students will travel to Atlanta later this month to participate in a national engineering competition.

St. Charles sent 10 teams to the Technology Student Association Tests of Engineering Aptitude in Mathematics and Science competition held March 1 at Ohio Northern University in Ada. The one-day engineering competitions took place at more than 125 regional locations nationwide through a partnership with high school educators, universities, corporations and professional organizations. Each year, more than 10,000 students on more than 1,250 teams of eight members each compete across the nation and in two foreign countries.

The competition includes an essay, a design-build portion and problem-solving scenarios.

"We have about six weeks to prepare for the regionals in March" each year, said Sarah Vandermeer, a St. Charles physics teacher who coaches the school's engineering teams along with biology teacher Cameron Houk.

"They give us eight theme-based scenarios and a list of common things -- straws, pipe cleaners, paper clips, tape and when we get there, they tell us what we're supposed to build with the supplies," Vandermeer said.

Of the 10 teams St. Charles entered, two varsity and one junior-varsity team placed in the top six in the state and in the nation by division.

The varsity A team placed first in the region by division, first in the state and first in the nation by division. The varsity A and B teams placed first and second in the state by division; first and second in the state overall; and first and second in the nation by division to claim the Division 3 national championship and the Best in State overall title.

Both varsity teams and the junior-varsity team qualified to compete at the TSA National Convention set June 22-24 in Atlanta.

For the national competition, each team is preparing two-minute "elevator speech" videos to promote fictional engineering firms they created to execute the tasks they're assigned.

"They've been filming with their iPhones and putting together scripts," Vandermeer said of the students. "They're supposed to pick a city and talk about how the commute can be streamlined to save energy, save time, save aggravation, cut down on traffic."

William Susa, a 17-year-old junior who is a member of the varsity B team, said participating in the competition is helping him to apply engineering concepts to the real world, especially as it relates to technology that promotes environmental sustainability.

"It really opens your eyes to a lot of different fields of engineering other than cars and electric circuits. You see the final product, what you're aiming to fix," Susa said. "We get categories such as solar and wind (technology). We look at things that can be useful for a greener future."

The other varsity B team members are Anthony Ricuarte (captain), Michael Anderson, Cameron DeShetler, Devin Keller, Liam O'Reilly, Colin Saccoccio and Nick Schuler.

The varsity A team members are Ian Smith (captain), Jack Finn, Adam Groene, George Javitch, Joseph Roe, Henry Valachovic, Luke Voegele and Alex Wing.

Members of the junior-varsity team are Hagan Stovall (captain), Dominick Lombardi, Nick Lusky, Brennan O'Brien, Jack Prophater, Alex Dickson, Zack Zehala and Will Humphrys.

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