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BCIU Hosts 2023 STEM Design Challenge

The Berks County Intermediate Unit (BCIU) hosted the tenth annual “STEM Design Challenge” at the BCIU Main Office on Wednesday, March 22, and Wednesday, March 29, 2023, from 9:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M. Students from Berks County schools competed in two divisions, in teams with a maximum of four students each. Forty-four teams of students in grades four and five (approximately 176) competed on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, and eighteen teams of students in grades six through eight (approximately 72 students) competed on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. Students were tasked to research environmental issues, identify one for their team to address, create a solution to that issue, then build a prototype out of K’Nex supporting their solution. Only K’Nex pieces and materials could be used. Along with the prototype, the teams created a blueprint, a design notebook, and a presentation.

To prepare for the competition, teams spent several weeks before the competition working together to identify a modern-day problem, imagining a prototype that they could build to solve that problem, creating blueprints, and then practicing building their finalized prototype using K’Nex.

Along the way, students documented the process by keeping a design notebook and writing a script for their design presentation. When the challenge day arrived, teams had just two hours to build their K’Nex prototype from scratch and less than two minutes to offer their presentation to the judges.

Higher ed professionals, engineers, technicians, and specialists from Berks County served as judges, bridging the connection between K-12 and the STEM workforce. Teams were judged on their creativity, teamwork, blueprints, journals, design, and presentation.

On the first day of competition (grades four and five), “The Blue Takis” from Owatin Creek Elementary School, Exeter Township School District, earned first-place honors. In second place were “B3- Brecknock Brainiac Builders” from Brecknock Elementary, Governor Mifflin School District, and in third place were “Krazy K’Nex Kreators” from Oley Valley Elementary, Oley Valley School District.

On the second day of competition (grades six through eight), “The Raiders” from Twin Valley Middle School, Twin Valley School District, came out on top. In second place were “Hydro Hyrdas” from Governor Mifflin

Middle School, Governor Mifflin School District, and in third place were “Sea Savers” from Oley Valley Middle School, Oley Valley School District. The first-place team in each division will compete in a state competition held on Friday, May 12, 2023, at the PA Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.

The STEM Design Challenge began in 2010 as a competition at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU3) and has grown to a Pennsylvania statewide competition with over 5,000 students competing each year. The BCIU is one of 20 intermediate units statewide that hosts a K’Nex STEM Design Challenge, generously supported by Thermo Fisher Scientific.

The purpose of this annual competition is to increase STEM-related educational opportunities for students at the regional and state levels. Furthermore, the STEM Design Challenge intends to raise awareness of the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

For additional information, please contact the BCIU Office of Professional Learning – Mrs. Lyn Hilt, Program Administrator; or Mrs. Jillian Darlington, Specialist, at 610-987-8649.

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