Benton Hall Academy STEM teacher Tracy Young is pictured with the three winners. From L-R Giovanni Almaviva, Lucas Manley, Tracy Young and Abigail Farber.

by Dave Warner

The “Bobcat Binkys” team from Benton Hall Academy took first place in the Grand Design Competition with their innovative design.

The NAE Grand Challenges were designed to cause students and educators to think about solutions and challenges affecting all of our lives.

Elementary students from around the world worked in small teams to design a better product or tool that could be used to give small children doses of liquid medicine.

According to a statement by ITEEA “This year’s submissions impressed the judges with the elementary students’ use of the engineering design loop, testing of products, refining of products, and serious consideration of external factors.”

“The ITEEA saw our pictures and said, wow your kids are really good at what they’re doing, so would you like to do this,” stated Tracy Young, a STEM teacher at Benton Hall.

There wasn’t any time for those students to take the challenge during school hours, so Young set up after school sessions to compete.

Young says “I chose random kids between fourth grade and fifth grade – two fourth grade groups and two fifth grade ones. We stayed after school for 45 minutes, twice a week. The students weren’t from the same class, it was a mixture of kids from different classes.”

The students were tasked with figuring out an innovative way to dispense medicine. “That was their grand challenge. They had to think of a new way, or a different way, not an ordinary way,” said Young.

There were four different designs that were submitted. Presentations were recorded and videos and pictures were sent in, along with their journals.

Young said “Our Bobcat Binkys won first place, which is very, very exciting for us.”

This wasn’t the teams first design approach. After trying several others, they settled on the binkys. “I thought it was a good idea, and the way they presented it was just fantastic,” she said.

The student project will be showcased in March in Kansas City, and Young will travel there to present. “I was going anyways to showcase Benton Hall, but now I get to showcase two things and be able to say my kids won.”

The team won a one-year I-STEM Education Group Membership, one free hotel night in Kansas City, MO for the ITEEA conference, and a spot in ITEEA’s STEM Showcase.

Young will be sharing information about their winning design at the STEM Showcase from 4:00-5:30pm on Thursday, March 28th.

“I’ll be going to different workshops and bringing back ideas for not only elementary school, but the middle school and high school as well,” said Young.