Students get hands-on at STEM competition

Students Baha Albatainch, Abhishek Younghang, and Tresor Echa construct a car out of common household items (Photo: Tamika Addison, Patterson Press)

By Anthony Ward,

Patterson high school held its sixth annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competition  outside the auditorium on Thursday, November 21.

The STEM competition this year featured nothing but the best of innovative inventions and critically thinking students. For me, it was my first time competing with my fellow students in this yearly event and at first I was unaware of what it would be like or what challenges I would have to face. I, along with two of my classmates, formed a team that we named “Third Degree” (because there were three of us and my partners thought it was better than calling it “Anthony’s Team”).

After waiting in the auditorium for all the competitors to come in, we were given the rules which we were to follow to complete the stations properly and as quickly as possible. My team first ran into a barrel roll type of challenge which required the teams to build something that was able to roll down a ramp as quickly as possible without crashing. At first we were overwhelmed with the idea that we really had to build something that worked, but after a few blank stares and shouts about our time limit we came up with an idea. We decided to create a car because we thought that it was just obvious that a car would be what they want from us. We had no problem with the frame but we only had two wheels the same size as the frame and the only other thing was four huge CDs that clearly did not fit the frame. As time was running out, we realized we might not even finish the very first project. In a rush, we found two paper clips that hooked two of the CDs tightly together to keep them from falling apart and with a glimmer of hope we put them on the frame and sent it off. It seemed to move okay down the ramp, but once it left the ramp, the wheels fell apart almost instantly. We were all disappointed but we did get the hang of the how things worked.

We struggled through the next few activities: an egg drop, a math test that was more math than test and a contest called King Pong, where we had to design & build a container to hold as many ping-pong balls as possible at least one inch above the table. By that point, our team was one loss away from giving up.

Finally, we got one right. The event that we succeeded at was a boat sail challenge in which you had to sand down a boat and let it sail down a current. Whoever gets their boat to sail down the water in the shortest amount of time gets the most points. The tools and almost all of the equipment we used were basic things you could buy at a dollar store, yet we created things that were worth much more than that materials used to make them. It’s like a blend of Bob the Builder and your math homework, but instead of it being boring and feeling like a lecture it becomes something fun like wood shop (without the creepy teacher) or robotics (without any actual robots).

After the competitions, we sat in the media center for the best part, which of course was the food.  We had pizza, cookies, and drinks deserving of hard workers or our caliber, until they announced the awards and trophies to the top three teams. The winners were:

  • 3rd Place: Team X (Gerald Bobo and Charles [CJ] Conley)
  • 2nd Place: Team Team (Alexis Roy and Raul Esparza)
  • 1st Place: The Senior BATS (Baha Albatainch, Abhishek Younghang, and Tresor Echa)

No, my group was not in the top three but we were close and I do think my participation award (what it said on the flimsy paper) made me feel slightly better about losing. All in all, STEM this year tested our skills and creativity. And although it was tough, grueling, and had my mind doing loops like algebra homework, I survived and I sort of want to do it again, without getting the “you tried” award.


(Photos by Tamika Addison, Patterson Press:)

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