Story and photos by Richard Lieberman
The challenge for students from 15 different middle schools in Ventura County was to design a miniature launcher, using only ordinary office and household items. Students then use their designs to launch ping-pong balls at a target. Judged by a panel of Navy and civilian engineers, the students were aided by a math or science teacher at their schools. Participating students were also aided by a Naval Surface Warfare Center engineers.
Using only popsicle sticks, rubber bands, ping pong balls and paper clips students drew on their imaginations, and their math and science skills to make an attempt at hitting targets by designing and building launchers.
The exercise, the 16th annual Naval Surface Warfare Center Engineering Challenge Event, held on Naval Base Ventura County February 25th from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. required each participant school to pick six team members and one teacher each collaborating with a Navy engineer. The challenge designed to raise awareness of STEM and stimulate interest in math and science.
Given a box of random objects the students are challenged to use their creativity and their engineering, science and math skills to build their launchers. After the design and construction phases the final design challenge was to show to judges that their prototype did what it was designed to do. The student projects in this phase are judged by a panel of judges on creativity, conceptual design, application, testing procedure and results.
In addition to developing the science, math and engineering skills students are encouraged to solve design problems by working together, collaborating and learning the concepts of getting along and working together as a team.
The students with the best designs, the ones that actually hit the target is the goal of this competition. The students judged by a panel that included: Captain Cord H. Luby Commanding Officer,Dr. William H. Luebke SES Technical Director, Fire Controlman Senior Chief Bret Levinton Command Senior Chief, Commander Vince Chernesky Deputy Commander, Department of Engineering & Technology and Chief Engineer, Noel Camanag Director of Engineering and Technology, all working members of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division.
First place award went to Charles F. Blackstock School in Oxnard. Second place was awarded to Monte Vista School in Camarillo, and third place was won by E.O Green School in Oxnard. The winning teams will receive a tour of the base, and a tour of the “Self Defense Test Ship” which provides an at-sea, remotely controlled, self-defense weapons engineering, test and evaluation platform for the purpose of conducting advanced weapons evaluation without risk to personnel.
The three Ventura participating schools Anacapa Middle School, De Anza Academy of Technology and the Arts (DATA) and Balboa Middle School although not placing in the top still learned from the competition the valuable skills of collaboration, working together as a group and how the design process works from inception to completed project.