It’s been an exciting month and a half since the Allendale Columbia Science Bowl team won the Western New York Regional Science Bowl Competition. It’s all uncharted territory with the team designing their competition car. The 23 page Design Document, complete with diagrams, pictures, components, design decisions, and most importantly, “What we Learned” section, is on a thumb drive and in the mail. The car, ready for race day, was wrapped in bubble wrap with last minute tuning and inspecting. Instead of pencils and paper, the team has been carrying around hot glue guns, electrical tape, and graphite powder. The team has learned so much more than a bit of engineering. Here’s my top 3 things we have realized as a team before we set foot on this amazing journey to Nationals next week.
1) Education doesn’t always happen from a teacher in a classroom. From the shop of the Maintenance Department to the advice of John Frame from Roc Euro, students got away from the desks and in front of a soldering iron and a hole saw. Diameters and circumferences were measured, not in terms of worksheets and sample problems, but in trying to figure out if the car is wobbling due to a wheel size difference. Mr. Mulcahy taught Nate how to use calipers, Mr. Pittinaro taught Danielle how to solder, and Mr. Dardzinski taught the entire team the skill of “engineering on the fly”.
2) The measure of success does not depend on the team with the newest design idea, or the most well researched car concept. It literally has to do with measure. The team car might not have been the most unique concept, but due to precise measuring, re-measuring and care during construction – our car works. At Nationals, sometimes cars don’t. Nothing is more rewarding that having a crooked car test the patience and tenacity of the team, except maybe the look on their faces when they troubleshoot and solve the problem themselves.
3) Mentors are important. Textbooks and online resources can give you every formula you’ll ever need learn what is “theoretically” the best choices for building the car. However, in the end, it’s the years of practical experience of doing and building that also should be considered. I cannot tell you how many times I heard the students say about the Maintenance Department, “How’d they know that?” without picking up a calculator, ruler, or checking an online source of information.
As a team, we are excited. Each team member had a role, a strength, a fear, and a failure. We’re in this together, and I am more than confident that these students will represent Allendale Columbia incredibly well. Wish us luck.