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NOVA's SySTEMic Solutions Engineering Challenge winners honored

Winners of the Engineering Challenge sponsored by Northern Virginia Community College’s SySTEMic Solutions met at Micron Technology Virginia for an awards ceremony. The students represent Manassas Christian School, Marsteller Middle School, Porter Traditional School and Saunders Middle School.

Industry champion Micron hosts awards event for eighth graders

Northern Virginia Community College’s SySTEMic Solutions recently held an exciting awards event for eighth grade students who won the SySTEMic Solutions Engineering Challenge, a unique individual engineering competition with a literacy component. Formerly called the Micron Challenge, the competition was open to students in Prince William County, Manassas City and Manassas Park.

The competition included two separate challenges, one assigned at the end of 2012 and the other in spring 2013. Most students participated in one of the challenges but a few aspiring engineers competed in both parts.

The winter 2012 challenge called “Magnify It!”was focused on understanding the nature and technological applications of light. Students were tasked with designing and building a portable optical device using the provided lenses and resources found in the home. In addition, students’ literacy skills were incorporated into the project by writing a research presentation to explain their design and building process from beginning to end.

For the spring 2013 challenge, students had to create a Rube Goldberg Machine, a device that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction. In this case the students were challenged with creating a machine that turned on a light switch, or inflated and popped a balloon, or squeezed toothpaste onto a toothbrush.

The task also had to include three energy transformations (electrical to mechanical, such as turning the switch to a fan; chemical to electrical, such as using a battery to power a flashlight; and potential to kinetic, such as a bowling ball rolled from an elevated surface to hit domino-stacked books). In addition, students were required to include five recyclable items in their machine and prove that it worked three consecutive times.

The machines were videotaped in action and submitted to SySTEMic Solutions instead of being brought in physically and possibly damaged in transit. As in the winter challenge, students included a detailed report of their process.

Out of 196 submissions from middle schools in Prince William County, Manassas City and Manassas Park, 33 students were declared winners after careful evaluation by a task force consisting of education professionals from NOVA, local businesses and educators from several school districts.

The winning students attend Manassas Christian School, Marsteller Middle School, Porter Traditional School and Saunders Middle School. Two students from Manassas Christian School were named winners in both challenges:  Gianna Casorla and Pooja Patel. All the winners are listed below.

Winter 2012
Manassas Christian School
Daniel Alonzo
Gianna Casorla (winner in both challenges)
Jacob Clemens
Nicholas Hanback
Pooja Patel (winner in both challenges)

Marsteller Middle School
Michael Friedman
Steven Gordon
Judy Jacangelo

Porter Traditional School
Malia Haskovec
Chris Hutagaol
Catherine Root

Saunders Middle School
Sarah Acoltse
Lily Buysse

Spring 2013
Manassas Christian School
Gianna Casorla (winner in both challenges)
Pooja Patel (winner in both challenges)

Marsteller Middle School
Noa Abramson
Hayley Carver
Emma Dulin
Kati Flamm
Miranda Langford
Emily Murphy
Jonathan Raisigel
Cole Thibault
Kansas Vanhintum

Porter Traditional School
Maxwell Edwards
Alexis Grimmett
Emily Hilberer
Nick McCarron
Taylor Medve
Sarah Qureshi
Ethan Sorrell
Helen Thompson

Saunders Middle School
Zach Lorenz
Luke Mihalovich
Martin Pernot

At the awards event hosted at Micron Technology Virginia and facilitated by Micron University and Academic Relations Manager Zuzana Steen and SySTEMic Solutions Director Amy Harris, students gathered to receive awards, watch the video presentations of the Rube Goldberg Machines, tour the impressive Micron fabrication facility, and hear exhortations by industry professionals and educators to continue in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Prince William County Public Schools Superintendent Steven L. Walts, Micron Facilities Manager Stephen Silberstein and Manassas Christian School Principal Linda Bare all spoke about the urgent need for students to stay the course in STEM education which NOVA’s SySTEMic Solutions is working hard to facilitate.

Founded in 2010, SySTEMic Solutions is a public-private partnership among school divisions, the business community, NOVA and universities established to develop a pipeline of students pursuing a STEM degree or certificate. The initiative is addressing the STEM shortage in Northern Virginia by bolstering STEM activities and career exploration opportunities for students. One of their responsibilities has been to expand programs that began as Micron initiatives, the engineering challenge being one of the flagship programs.

“Micron and the Micron Foundation are proud founding partners and supporters of the SySTEMic Solutions Engineering Challenge for Prince William area middle schools,” said Dee Mooney, executive director of the Micron Foundation. “By supporting a program like this, we strive to spark a passion in the next generation of scientists, engineers and technicians.”

“There is urgency to act now and work together to strengthen the pipeline of talent in Northern Virginia,” Harris said. “We need to engage the hearts and minds of students and also inspire them with programs like the SySTEMic Solutions Engineering Challenge to move forward in STEM, to find a passion for it, to become excellent in it and raise the bar in our region. When there is a synthesis of education and industry to engage students early, like we’ve seen with this challenge, we see the exciting possibilities for the future of STEM. However, it is vital to sustain the interest of students into high school and beyond to truly make a long-term impact.”

For more information about SySTEMic Solutions or the Engineering Challenge, contact Harris at 703-257-6689 or aharris@nvcc.edu.

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.