Local school receives $50,000 grant and their entry will become a million-dollar exhibit at Science City
Mason Elementary students won the grand prize in Burns & McDonnell’s Battle of the Brains, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competition open to schools throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. At a ceremony held Nov. 18 at Union Station, it was revealed that Mason’s proposal, called “Not-So-Simple Simple Machines Playground,” won a $50,000 prize as the grand prize winner.
In addition, Mason’s proposal will be transformed into a million-dollar outdoor exhibit at Kansas City’s Science City. Students in Jenny Reidlinger’s gifted classes at Mason designed the school’s entry, an exciting exploration of simple and compound machines. Students developing the proposal included Zyza Cooley, Ben Guthrie, Paden Cole, Myah Frashier, Eden Wheeler, Selah Wheeler, Bella Washburn, Julia Washburn and Reagan Parker.
The Mason exhibit features a variety of larger-than-life machines, such as a tornado slide that looks like a giant screw, a pulley-powered zip line seat and a giant tire with an axle to perform as a merry-go-round. Visitors would test physics on seesaws and explore effort and resistance force with different levers.
“Now the fun really begins!” said Greg Graves, chairman and CEO of Burns & McDonnell. “One of the coolest parts of winning Battle of the Brains is getting the opportunity to work alongside our STEM professionals over the next year to see their classroom dream come to life. In just a matter of weeks, these elementary students will be sitting in a meeting with our engineers, architects and construction team at Burns & McDonnell to create the next permanent exhibit at Science City.”
Two other Lee’s Summit R-7 schools were among 20 finalists in this year’s Battle of the Brains. Longview Farm Elementary’s entry, “It’s All in Your Head,” and Summit Technology Academy’s entry, “Nature’s Fault,” each earned a $2,500 grant through the competition.
The popular science competition attracted record participation this year: 5,300 students and 520 entries from 210 schools. A panel of experts in science, engineering and academia ranked the entries according to set criteria that ranged from creativity to interactive capability. The public was invited to cast votes for their favorite of the top 20 finalists online, which counted for 30 percent of the final scoring. This year, more than 70,000 people cast their votes online.
“As part of our Western Expansion, Union Station is growing Kansas City’s world-class Science Center outdoors for the first time,” said George Guastello, president and CEO of Union Station. “That exciting new STEM-focused space will feature this latest Battle of the Brains award-winning concept. What a thrill it will be for these students – and for all of us – to see their ideas take shape and become a real centerpiece at this historic destination. And it should not be a surprise that student-inspired exhibits from past Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains competitions have ignited an energy and enthusiasm for Science City resulting in year-after-year double-digit attendance growth and internationally awarded recognition.”
Burns & McDonnell introduced the Battle of the Brains competition in 2011 to spark greater interest in STEM education. The competition has produced three interactive exhibits at Science City, valued at more than $2 millions. Over the last four years, more than 10,000 metro students have participated in the Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains.
“Students are telling us that their experience in Battle of the Brains helped them look at STEM differently. Now, those same kids are engineering majors in college,” added Mr. Graves, who points to statistics showing that in less than three years, more than 2 million STEM jobs in the U.S. will remain unfilled because there won’t be enough qualified candidates to fill them. “Our goal — our obligation — is to give kids a new perspective on STEM education and inspire them to go after their dreams. I can’t wait to fulfill my dream of hiring the first Battle of the Brains alum at Burns & McDonnell. That day, I know, is coming soon.”
Mason’s team reacts as they learn they have won the grand prize at the awards ceremony.
Mason students prepare to greet the award-winning team as they step off the bus.
Winning students from Mason Elementary are greeted by the entire school after the surprise announcement.
Mason’s winning students pictured with teacher Jenny Reidlinger are (front row, from left) Julia Washburn, Eden Wheeler, Selah Wheeler, (middle row, from left) Paden Cole, Myah Frashier, Zyza Cooley, (back row, from left) Ben Guthrie, Bella Washburn and Reagan Parker.