With so many schools lacking protection in the event of a tornado, a team of four 8th graders from Wheatland Middle School has developed a system for converting school locker banks into safety zones, and their work has won them a week’s trip to DC in June to compete to be national winners of the U.S. Army-sponsored eCYBERMISSION science competition. The web-based science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program, sponsored by the U.S. Army and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), encourages students in grades sixth through ninth to develop solutions to real-world challenges in their communities.

During the competition, teams of three or four students chose a topic related to one of seven mission challenges that affect their community, including:
• alternative sources of energy;
• the environment;
• food;
• health and fitness;
• force and motion;
• national security and safety;
• robotics; and
• technology.

After the teams selected their mission challenge, they applied the scientific practices or engineering design process to propose a solution. Each team then submitted a mission folder, the official write-up of their project, through the eCYBERMISSION website.

The regional winning teams were chosen from a select group of 80 finalists. A panel of judges consisting of U.S. Army scientists and engineers, educators and STEM professionals selected the regional winners on the basis of several criteria, including the students’ virtual presentations and a question and answer session with the judges. As a regional winner, each team member will receive a $2,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond and an all-expenses paid trip to NJ&EE to compete for the first-place national award.

The NJ&EE is a week-long event that focuses on educational opportunities and team building exercises. This year’s event features a STEM Challenge, where students will participate in STEM demonstrations and hands-on activities. They will also go on field trips to the National Mall and museums and conclude with an awards luncheon with U.S. Army leadership, where the national winning team from each grade will be announced.

The system that the Wheatland youngsters devised could be adapted for malls, airports, and other large buildings and can be deployed in 12 seconds.  Wheatland’s Consolidated Manufacturing Enterprise helped the team with testing; see videos here.

The National Science Teachers Association manages eCYBERMISSION, which challenges students to identify real-world problems and create solutions using science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  The students have already won $12,000 for their work, and could win another $25,000 in the finals.