Tenafly High School Engineering Design Competition for Middle Schoolers

March 22, 2019

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Tenafly High School Engineering Design Competition for Middle Schoolers

Joseph David, AIA, co-chair of the AIA New Jersey K-12 Education Committee and Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, chair of the AIA New Jersey Equity in Architecture Committee, both participated as judges at the Tenafly High School Engineering Design Competition on March 20, 2019.

The competition challenged regional middle school students to design, build and test a robotic arm in 3.5 hours. The competition was designed and implemented by the Tenafly High School STEM Club, under the direction of their advisor/instructor, Ghania Layachi. According to STEM Club President, Ben Fink, Tenafly High has only 70 students interested in engineering, and of those 70 only 6 girls. 

Tenafly STEM Club: Advisor/Instructor Ghania Layachi, Co-VP Louis Spencer, President Ben Fink, Co-VP Edo Bareket, Treasurer Kalynn Ng and Secretary Emily Matteson.

Last year, the THS STEM Club offered a high school competition but were disappointed to find few local schools had a strong interest in engineering, and even fewer female students were interested. In an effort to invigorate greater interest on a high school level, they choose to offer a middle school competition this year.  Twelve local schools that teach STEM were invited to participate. Six accepted the invitation and could send as many six person, three girl minimum teams as they chose. Old Tappan, Leonia, Demarest, Haworth, Harrington Park, Bergenfield, and Norwood accepted the invitation to compete against the Tenafly middle school engineers. The yield was a total of 12 teams participating.  

The judges panel includes (L-R) Architect Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, Industrial Engineer Pinar Tosun, Stevens Institute of Technology VP of Women’s Engineers Emily Sneddon, Engineer at Turner Construction Silvia Bronder, retired Science and Engineering Dept supervisor Stephen Skettini, Architect Joe David, AIA,  industrial engineer Robert Messer and lead judge, retired Technology Instructor, Maria Markatos (not pictured). 

The students had no idea what the challenge would be before they arrived. Each team was provided the challenge summary, a box of common materials like tongue depressors, rubber bands, binder clips, string, tape and cardboard, and a series of tasks to complete as part of the project. They were evaluated on Prototype,  Engineering Documentation, Science Lab, Computer Aided Design and Group Presentation. Demarest Middle School had the design that was able to lift the greatest weight without failing, but Leonia was the overall grand champion when combining the scores for each of the individual categories. Old Tappan placed third, after Demarest. 


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