Connecticut Innovations (CI), the state's quasi-public authority responsible for growing Connecticut businesses through innovative financing and strategic assistance, announced results of its yearlong support of two science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education initiatives for high school students in Connecticut: the Real World Design Challenge and the Sikorsky STEM Challenge. CI supports these initiatives annually to help strengthen Connecticut's technology talent pipeline and fuel business growth.
CI served as coordinator of the Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) state competition during the 2012/2013 school year, in partnership with Pratt and Whitney and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The RWDC, an annual competition held at both state and national levels, provides high school students the opportunity to work on engineering challenges in a team environment. State winners go on to participate in the national competition. Since the national RWDC program's inception in 2008, it has been supported by a broad-based public-private partnership that has contributed significant funding as well as in-kind services.
The primary focus of this year's RWDC state competition was an aviation challenge: designing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to locate a lost boy scout in the mountains. Fifteen high school teams from across Connecticut worked to meet the challenge, aided by engineers from Pratt and Whitney who served as mentors; three teams made it to the state finals. The finalists were from Conard High School (West Hartford), Watkinson School (West Hartford) and Xavier High School (Middletown). The finals, held in February, were hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard Academy at its New London campus.
Xavier High School's team captured the first place award. Its team consisted of: Mark Breault, Mario Chris, Tyler Cusack, John Reidy, Brian Wilcox, Jeff Witz and Zach Ziobrowski. Xavier's team went on to compete in the national RWDC competition, held in April in Washington, D.C., where it earned national recognition for Best Use of Mentors in the Aviation Challenge.
"We're excited about these experiences because they give kids an opportunity to acquire not only STEM technical knowledge and expertise, but also adaptability, communication and social skills, and problem-solving and management abilities – in short, all of the skills necessary to become a successful contributor in the workplace," said Tom Prete, vice president of engineering at Pratt and Whitney.
CI also served as coordinator of the Sikorsky STEM Challenge, in which high school teams statewide were asked to redesign the aileron, an airplane part originally made out of wood for the World War II Corsair airplane, using today's materials. Sikorsky provided engineering mentors, Connecticut Corsair provided access to a wooden aileron and pertinent data, and other industry partners provided necessary materials and helped to judge the teams' designs. The other industry partners included: Bolton Works (East Hartford), CAPInc (Meriden), DataBank (Glastonbury), DC Hall (North Branford), Infotech Enterprises (East Hartford), InterPRO (Deep River), Joining Technologies (East Granby), Lynn Welding (Newington), Trumpf (Farmington), Tumbleweed Transportation (Moodus), and Tygor Laboratories (Milford).
Over 130 students from 11 Connecticut high schools participated in the design challenge. At the conclusion of the competition, the top three teams presented their winning solutions to a panel of judges at the student Innovation Expo on May 4 at the Connecticut Convention Center. The winning teams were:
• First Place - East Haven High School (students Anthony DeMayo and Dhruv Patel, supervised by teachers Mike Cassone and James Newton)
• Second Place - Amity Regional High School
• Third Place - Trumbull high School
To learn more about these Connecticut STEM competitions, please visit the Connecticut Real World Design Challenge site and the Sikorsky STEM Challenge site.