AIA New Jersey Members Participate in the New Jersey School Board Association Steam Tank Challenge

April 26, 2018

Elementary Competitors Waiting to Present at the Central Regionals

AIA New Jersey Members Participate in the New Jersey School Board Association 2018 STEAM Tank Challenge

by Joseph E. David, AIA and Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA





This year, AIA New Jersey’s new Equity in Architecture Committee has teamed up with the New Jersey School Board Association (NJSBA) to support Science, Technology, Engineering, Architecture and Mathematics (STEAM) education and exploration in New Jersey Public Schools.

The Central Regionals High School Challenge




The Judges Panel from the Central Regionals

After preliminary discussions with John Henry of the NJSBA,  Chairman Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, decided that providing judges for the NJSBA STEAM Tank Challenge would be a great and rewarding opportunity for AIA NJ members while also being hugely beneficial for the participating students. Kliesch returned to her committee to seek volunteers. Joseph E. David, AIA; Jessica O’Donnell, AIA; Lauren Harris, AIA; and Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA all signed up.








The Elementary School Jury for Southern Regionals


The 2018 STEAM Tank Challenge PlayBook had been distributed to the schools back in December and the projects were well underway, with the first regional competition just weeks out. These competitions are modeled after the popular TV Show Shark Tank, with entrepreneurs and inventors standing up before a panel of experts to seek support.


The Judges Panel for Southern NJ Regionals







On regional challenge days, the students and judges are divided K-5th grade, 6th through 8th and high school. We saw approximately 30 teams present at each regional competition, in each age group, so around 90 teams total, per day and 270 statewide, a group culled down from hundreds more the month prior when the proposal applications were submitted to the NJSBA.






Each team has 3 minutes to “sell” their product, after which the judges ask questions, provide feedback and privately score the team. When all of the teams are finished presenting, the top point winners are identified and proceed on to the next round.












Three-time Judge and 2018 President of the Architects League of Northern New Jersey, Joe David had these comments to share, “I represented AIA New Jersey as one of four judges in the High School category at each of the Northern, Southern and Central New Jersey Regionals,  of the NJSBA 2018 STEAM Tank Challenge. We listened to their ideas and then scored them based on categories including marketability, collaboration with professionals, sustainability, engineering, and creativity. The High School category was especially competitive with creative solutions to all kind of problems.

An entrepreneurial team from Central Jersey











Some of the projects included an app to warn drivers when drawbridges were open, an integral firefighters TIC mask system, a wheelchair that was able to climb stairs, a watch band that could detect safe drinking water, an AI-powered robot, a magnetic propulsion engine, a game designed to help special needs classmates navigate their local supermarket, a system to reduce methane and powerhouses through cows and a jar that twisted up to make sure that there was no peanut butter stuck to the sides.








The teams had creative solutions and carefully planned presentations, often with physical prototypes or mockups to aid in their explanations, and some of the teams who created apps were able to demonstrate them live for the judges. The Central New Jersey Regionals was the first of three regional events, followed by Southern New Jersey on March 23rd and Northern New Jersey on April 14th. A limited number of teams will advance to the finals in Atlantic City this fall where statewide winners will be selected.”



To learn more about the NJSBA STEAM Tank Challenge,

STEAM TANK Challenge

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