Students take their tech knowledge to the X STREAM in expo

by PATRICK J. BUECHI
Wed, Dec 10th 2014 04:00 pm

On Dec. 7, Catholic school students used science, engineering and technology to move blocks, hold erasers and launch bottles into the sky. The students took part in an X STREAM Games and Expo sponsored by the diocesan Department of Catholic Education, held at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in Kenmore.

The games included a robotic competition, engineering scrimmage and bottle rocket launch, while the expo showed off arcade games made of cardboard boxes and the work of younger PEAP students.

Over 150 students from 20 schools took part in the daylong event, demonstrating their knowledge of science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math.

In St. Joe's Black Box Theater, schools competed against one another in a robotic challenge. Using robots they designed and built themselves, students scored points by remotely controlling their creations to push and stack blocks.

Along with being fun, robotics teaches students to plan ahead, follow instructions and think quickly.  

"(The students) build, troubleshoot, read schematics, follow directions. They put a lot of things together that are all science-related," said Mark Kobel, fifth-grade teacher from St. Andrew's Country Day School. "Paying attention to detail is huge, because when they don't, they have problems that they didn't expect to have. When they had a problem in the classroom, they had plenty of time to solve it, but when they're here, all of a sudden the problems magnify themselves. This lightbulb has to go on for them to figure out what could be wrong."

A Science Scrimmage held in the Commons and Science wing of the school placed the focus on engineering. Students took part in designing various structures for various purposes. Some attempted to make towers both tall and strong, with the goal of holding a tennis ball. A team from St. Gregory the Great School in Williamsville succeeded with a design resembling the Washington Monument.

"We did the planning mostly at home because at our last practice it completely failed, so we went for a new design," said Ania Krzyzanska, 11. Under the pressure of the competition they built a tower measuring 86.5 centimeters tall. "It's very unstable, but it still worked and we're very happy about it."

Other scrimmage activities included insulating an egg to prevent it from cracking after being dropped from four feet in the air, and building a bridge of drinking straws that could hold the weight of a chalkboard eraser.

The students prepared for the challenge by learning about what different designs offer in terms of strength and flexibility, and making a few test projects.

"Some of it is background knowledge based on what they've already learned in their classroom settings, but a lot of my role is to lead them to understand the engineering part of it, what makes structures strong. We expose them to things on the Internet. We expose them to drawings, and they practice these things; what makes a stronger structure," said Terri Strassel, St. Greg's coach.

Outside on the football field, crowds ducked for cover as bottle rockets came crashing to the ground like javelins. The rockets, comprised of plastic pop bottles taped with fins and a long launch tube, are filled with water and pumped full of air, causing pressure that launches the projectile into the sky.

"It was cool to see how high they go," said Roman Sanders, 10, from Catholic Academy of Niagara Falls. "It's fun to see what mistakes you made so you can make it better next time."

Bishop Richard J. Malone toured the expo and celebrated Mass for those who participated.  

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