Pennsylvania Student Creativity in Display in STEM Competition in OutlooK-12 Magazine

by Ricardo Castillo in


Governor Tom Wolf

Governor Tom Wolf

Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera

Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera

Student teams from 19 Pennsylvania high schools converged on the Thaddeus Stevens  College of Technology earlier this year to participate in the first Governor’s Science,  Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) competition. The teams demonstrated their  creations such as a device that allows homeowners to monitor their energy consumption; a helmet that can identify head trauma incurred by its user and, using Bluetooth technology, send a distress message to an emergency contact and even an electric-powered robot that autonomously shovels snow and salts driveways and sidewalks.

The teams presented their proposals to Gov. Tom Wolf, First Lady Frances Wolf, Acting Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, policymakers and educators. The winning team, Allegheny County’s South Fayette Township High School, presented a line of products called Life-Safer Walker Innovations aiming to improve upon the traditional geriatric walker. The line focuses on improving traditional walkers in four main areas: electrical, mechanical, structural and aesthetics. 

The top three teams didn’t just earn bragging rights; they will receive scholarships through a Tution Account Plan (TAP 529) account. Each member of the first place team received a $2,000 college scholarship second place team members each received a $1,000 college scholarship; and members of the third place team each received a $500 college scholarship. South Fayette High School in Allegheny County took home the grand prize, which was presented by Rivera and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology president Dr. William Griscom.

 The teams, which were selected through regional contests in March, developed their projects throughout the school year. Students were challenged to select a real-world problem and to research, design and present a project or device aimed at improving the quality of life for residents of the commonwealth. Any public, private or charter school as well as career and technical education center were invited to compete. Teams were encouraged to engage their local communities, and each had a teacher advisor to assist them. 

Governor Tom Wolf, First Lady Frances Wolf and Secretary Rivera attended the event and met with each team to see them operate their project. 

“STEM is a vital component of our education system, and we need to support programs that allow students to apply what they’re learning to real life,” Governor Wolf said. “These students and their teachers should be proud of the projects they created, and I was thrilled to experience their hard work first-hand. Getting kids interested in STEM education early on will undoubtedly help lead them toward high-paying jobs down the road.”

Secretary Rivera added, “It was inspiring to interact with the  student teams at this year’s STEM competition and see their original ideas come to life. By channeling their knowledge, skills and energy into developing innovative ways to build a better Pennsylvania, these students are not just growing intellectually but also creating solutions that could benefit generations to come.”

2015 Governor’s STEM Competition Student Projects’ Descriptions:

South Fayette Township High School, South Fayette Township School District, Allegheny County (First Place)

The South Fayette High School team developed a line of products called Life-Safer Walker Innovations aiming to improve upon the traditional geriatric walker. The line focuses on improving traditional walkers in four main areas: electrical, mechanical, structural and aesthetics.

South Fayette Township High School, South Fayette Township School District, Allegheny County

South Fayette Township High School, South Fayette Township School District, Allegheny County

Valley View High School, Valley View School District, Lackawanna County (Second Place)

The Valley View High School team created Every Second Counts, an emergency alert device for use by emergency first responders. The system aims to alleviate travel delays by working with a 911 operator and using three different signals: one for police, one for fire and one for ambulance services.

Valley View High School, Valley View School District, Lackawanna County

Parkland High School, Parkland School District, Lehigh County (Third Place)

The Parkland High School team proposed the creation of an electric-powered robot that autonomously shovels snow and salts driveways and sidewalks. The design plans to make snow removal easier, safer and more manageable for all of Pennsylvania’s citizens.

Parkland High School, Parkland School District, Lehigh County

Wyomissing Area High School, Wyomissing Area School District, Berks County

The Wyomissing Area High School team created the Smart Pod, a device that allows homeowners to monitor their energy consumption and alter their behaviors to increase
energy efficiency and save money. Using sensors and computer algorithms, the Smart Pod monitors its environment, records data and makes recommendations to users.


Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School, Hollidaysburg Area School District, Blair County 

The Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School team’s project addressed acid mine drainage remediation.

Seneca Valley High School, Seneca Valley School District, Butler County

The Seneca Valley High School team created a device that protects vegetation from invasive insect infestation. Using amplified, high frequency sound waves, the device imitates natural predators to repel invasive insects. Users can adjust the broadcast frequency, emission area and sound intensity to imitate various natural predators and protect different kinds of vegetation.

Bishop Shanahan High School, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Chester County

The Bishop Shanahan High School team created Brilliantly Bright Solar LCD Street Signs, an energy efficient way to ensure roadway safety, improve driver awareness and reduce the amount of car crashes. Built in accordance with state MUTCD regulations, the lighting system was developed using a folding mechanism for emergency stop signs with a solar-powered built-in LCD system. Additionally, the system would incorporate remote access, allowing for the opening and closing of non-operational traffic lights wirelessly.

Bishop Shanahan High School, Archdiocese of Philadelphia,  Chester County

Bishop Shanahan High School, Archdiocese of Philadelphia,  Chester County

Carlisle High School, Carlisle Area School District, Cumberland County

The Carlisle High School team presented the Smart Helmet, a helmet that can identify head trauma incurred by its user and, using Bluetooth technology, send a distress message to an emergency contact. An alternate design for use by football programs incorporates flashing LED lights in the event of head trauma in place of Bluetooth connectivity.

Carlisle High School, Carlisle Area School District, Cumberland County

Carlisle High School, Carlisle Area School District, Cumberland County

Garnet Valley High School, Garnet Valley School District, Delaware County

The Garnet Valley High School team created a multi-unit system to precisely collect data on road conditions, improving upon the current system of driver-reported data and weather information collected several feet above roadway level. The information gathered by this system would not only improve travel safety and more accurately record roadway conditions, it could also be used to conduct studies, create statistics and form informational databases.

Fairview High School, Fairview School District, Erie County

The Fairview High School team developed a medical utensil disinfectant unit to help reduce the spread of disease in developing countries. Designed to be manufactured in Pennsylvania, the product would also stimulate job creation and benefit the medical research industry in
the Commonwealth.

James Buchanan High School, Tuscarora School District, Franklin County

The James Buchanan High School team developed a lifting device to aid maintenance personnel working on step ladders. Using a wench and rails on the step ladder, the device
lifts tool boxes and equipment to allow the operator to remain in place while using the ladder.

Pequea Valley High School, Pequea Valley School District, Lancaster County

The Pequea Valley High School team created the opportunity for unique lighting sources in the city of Lancaster. Using Piezoelectric sensors, the team generated electricity in floor tiles, demonstrating a sensor system that could be placed in areas around the community to power lights.

Dallas High School, Dallas School District, Luzerne County

The Dallas High School team presented a seatbelt safety device that prevents a car engine from starting until the seatbelt is utilized by the driver. In the event that the seatbelt is unclipped during travel, a fourway alert will activate, and the engine will be governed.

Hughesville High School, East Lycoming School District, Lycoming School District

The Hughesville High School team used organic rich pound mud to generate an electric current and improve its design of a microbial fuel cell (MFC). The MFC was developed for the agriculture community, providing an alternate use for animal waste pits in addition to their use as fertilizer.

Franklin Regional Senior High School, Franklin Regional School District, Westmoreland School District

The Franklin Regional Senior High School team created a trap for stinkbugs. After conducting extensive research, the team built a prototype and tested different parameters, determining the qualities that make an effective trap.

Franklin Regional Senior High School, Franklin Regional School District, Westmoreland School District

Franklin Regional Senior High School, Franklin Regional School District, Westmoreland School
District

Northern Potter High School, Northern Potter School District, Potter County

The Northern Potter High School team created the Sentry, a road marker that uses LED indicators and is designed to improve road safety in rural areas.

Merion Mercy Academy, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Montgomery County

The Merion Mercy Academy team presented a project to address the correlation between hunger and obesity, a problem that exists both in the Commonwealth and around the world. The team developed an electronically monitored insulated crate with air circulation to prolong
the life of fresh fruits and vegetables so that food-insecure populations may have greater access to healthy food at affordable prices.

Delaware Valley High School, Delaware Valley School District, Pike County

The Delaware Valley High School team presented Helios, an ice-melting spray system designed for senior citizens that heats up and then melts ice that has accumulated on porches and stairs. The product aims to reduce the rate of falling, currently the number one cause of accidental injury and death for senior citizens.

Trinity High School, Trinity Area School District, Washington County

The Trinity High School team worked with PennDOT to formulate a deicing agent that effectively melts ice in a more environmentally- friendly manner than existing deicers.
The team also made a shovel that dispenses the deicing material to allow users to multitask while shoveling snow and ice.

Photos and story courtesy of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office and Pennsylvania Department of Education.