Creek team performs well in engineering competition

COMPETING — Indian Creek High School sent two teams to the Westinghouse Chain Reaction Engineering competition in Pittsburgh. The teams competed against more than 50 other schools to win fourth and 10th places. Taking part in the event were, from left, kneeling: Jacob Hassan, Chance Busby, Cody Cottis and Colton Wietfeld. Standing: Carson Probert, Richie Gualtiere, Zach Barnett, Trent Bolek and Alex Rawson.

WINTERSVILLE – Indian Creek High School’s engineering and design classes sent two teams of students Pittsburgh on Dec. 7 to showcase their skills during the 18th annual Chain Reaction Contraption Contest. The teams competed against more than 50 other schools, most who also sent two teams, earning fourth and 10th places.

The event was sponsored by Westinghouse Electric Company and presented in cooperation with the Carnegie Science Center. It was open to students in grades 9-12 and is one of the events highlighted during National Engineers Week.

The fourth place group included seniors Trent Bolek, Jacob Hassan, Chance Busby, Zach Barnett, Colton Wietfeld, Kody Cottis and Richie Gualtiere.

Their entry was titled “Disasters Waiting to Happen,” and included seven engineering disasters that “tied a stomach into knots.”

“We had one disaster for each of us,” Wietfeld said.

“We wanted to be creative with the theme,” said Bolek.

The engineering disasters they chose to highlight included the Hindenburg disaster, the Space Shuttle Challenger, the World Trade Center attack and even the Ford Pinto.

The students said they all dressed up to represent the disaster they worked on.

Honors Chemistry and engineering teacher Barbara Turner serves as advisor for the students, and retired engineer Richard Fray served as mentor for the group.

Turner said that the engineering classes at Indian Creek are unique to the area, especially since she, herself, is a retired engineer.

“No other school has an engineer teaching their classes,” she said.

Despite having access to two engineers, the students actually came up with and designed the project on their own.

“This was 100 percent student driven,” Bolek said. “We built it and the mentor just checked it.”

“They lose up to 20 points if the teacher speaks for them,” Turner said. “They have to explain it themselves. They were flawless.”

The students said they were the underdogs pretty much from the beginning but that didn’t deter them.

“These were mostly schools around Pittsburgh,” Wietfeld said. “They have wood shops and machine shops. We built it all here (in the classroom.)”

“We have no funding,” Cottis said. “That’s all junk. It’s 90 percent recycled material and the rest is donated.”

Despite the lack of resources, the students are dedicated to the projects. Turner said the students all take the class as independent study.

“We come in at the end of the day and spend our free time on it,” Hassan said.

The students said the projects are made as real as possible. They are asked to give updates throughout the months leading up to the competition.

The fourth place team will get a chance to showcase their project at the Westinghouse Electric World headquarters during Engineers Week Feb. 19.

Bolek said the event is great because they get to meet with actual working engineers, ask questions and get tips about the future.

“And they feed us,” Cottis said laughing. “The food is the best part.”

The second team included Alex Rawson, Carson Probert, Josh Harvey, Derrick Eakle, Autumn Miller and Logan Wilson.

Rawson said the theme of their project was to represent the steps in a person’s life from childhood to adulthood ending in marriage or “tying the knot.”

All of the students involved in the competition were seniors and plan to pursue careers in science when they finish high school.