A team from Maur Hill Mount Academy won the University of Kansas School of Engineering 2012 High School design competition on Nov. 6.
Nick Falk of Atchison, SoMin Oh from South Korea and Faizan Iqbal from Pakistan comprised the team that won, the second consecutive year MH-MA has won the KU competition.
Steve Murdie, physics and chemistry instructor at MH-MA, coaches the engineering team. “I enjoyed watching the kids,” said Murdie, in his second year at MH-MA. “We met and drew up a plan. To watch it unfold that day was inspiring. Words can’t describe it.”
The MH-MA team beat out 63 other teams from Kansas and the Kansas City metro area for the title. Named “Rock Chalk Renaissance,” this year’s event required teams to construct a small mechanical launcher capable of competing in accuracy, speed, and power. The challenge consisted of four competitions: design presentation, velocity, accuracy, defend your castle, and then an overall winner is declared. MH-MA won the accuracy and the castle defense events and the overall competition.
The culmination of the day was the defend-your-castle event. Two teams went head-to-head, each building a castle within two minutes out of wood blocks and then start firing bean bag projectiles, trying to knock over a chess pawn placed on top of a juice bottle behind the castle.
"It was like a shootout in the old West,” said Murdie. "They were shooting at our castle while we were shooting at theirs. Teams had great machines. Our team was faster. Our goal was to do it in one shot.”
The first round required the most shots for the team to win. Iqbal, the team’s shooter, shot and hit the bottle the first time but the bottle spun around and the token didn’t fall off the bottle. The same thing happened again the second time with the bottle spinning even faster but again the token didn’t fall off. The third time the projectile directly hit the token and they were well on their way to the championship.
“We knew (we had a shot at winning) when the judges said ‘that’s a really good design,’” said Iqbal.
The rest of the way the team usually beat their opponent with one shot.
Murdie watched his team work together during the events. He could offer advice only between rounds during the four-hour competition.
“In between, he would give us pointers,” said Falk. “Because our castle wall might be leaning forward or leaning back too far, or not symmetrical.”
Competing against other teams at KU was quite a bit different than the many hours practicing in the quiet MH-MA hallways after school and on weekends.
“There was a crowd,” said Falk. “There was a bit of pressure, but we were confident we were going to get it.”
The MH-MA team did lose in the final round of three teams and had to go into the loser’s bracket and win again to advance to the championship match, which it won, beating Republic County High School.
“These three were a great group to work with,” said Murdie. “They were very professional in how they went about their business.”
Other schools in the competition included Lawrence High, Olathe Northwest, Washburn Rural and Atchison.