Davenport West High School senior Andy Snawerdt, 17, worked the controls of a robot he and his colleagues built as it took a set of rings and placed them on lengths of PVC pipe.
Andy and his team, named the Combustible Lemons, had a chance to show off their creation as more than 200 people gathered Wednesday at The Lodge in Bettendorf for the 51st annual Quad-City Engineering and Science Council banquet celebrating National Engineers Week and learning in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
Combustible Lemons built the robot for a game called “Ring It Up,” part of an engineering event sponsored annually by FIRST Tech Challenge. The teams in the competition scored points by getting the rings onto the pegs.
“Last year was our first year,” Andy said. “We didn’t think we were going anywhere, but we won state and then came in the top 40 at the worlds.”
In the process, they had the second-highest score in the world for their game.
Creativity and skill such as that demonstrated by Combustible Lemons and other teams impresses Vince Bertram, president and CEO of Project Lead The Way.
“Kids are smart,” Bertram said before the banquet as he looked at the many inventions around the room. “They’re inquisitive. We have to be careful not to shut that down.”
Project Lead The Way is a provider of science, math, engineering and technology education curricular activities. The program can be found in more than 4,700 middle and high schools, including schools in Iowa and Illinois.
Bertram, who was keynote speaker at the banquet, said the passion of the students is what is most exciting.
Joe Tarnow, 17, of Milan, who is home-schooled, showed off the robot he and his team, QC Elite, designed to shoot foam basketballs. Not only could it shoot; the machine could move forward and backward.
“I love working on stuff that moves,” Joe said, his eyes wide as he raced his robot back and forth across the room. He plans to major in mechanical engineering at Bradley University in Peoria.
Jinesh Shah, 17, a junior at Rock Island High School, had a project in which Creatology, the company sponsoring the event, had the students engage in a task of engineering and design.
Students could take a toy airplane or helicopter and use reverse engineering. They took the toy apart, measured every part of it, and created the schematics for putting it back together. The students then recommended improvements to the toy. Jinesh used an airplane for his part in the event.
“Math is my favorite subject,” Jinesh said. “My father is a civil engineer and he tells me to try new things and get a taste of everything in engineering.”
“Trying new things” could be a part of Bertram’s mantra.
“What we’re trying to do is get students to be creative, to think critically and learn to collaborate,” he said. “We want them to learn to solve problems. They’re not just solving problems for themselves. They’re learning to solve problems for others.”