Students to Unveil Complex machines at Chain Reaction Contraption Contest on DEC. 10
High Schoolers face off at Carnegie Science Center in competition testing engineering skills and Creativity
PITTSBURGH, PA, – Teams from 36 high schools across the region will compete in the Chain Reaction Contraption Contest at Carnegie Science Center on Friday, Dec. 10.
The competition, powered by Westinghouse Electric Company, challenges students to create a complex machine to make change for a dollar in a most inefficient way. After months of tinkering, designing, and solving engineering problems, the students will formally present their machines.
Most people view machines as the epitome of efficiency, designed to make work processes faster and easier. The ideal machine requires few steps and uses as little energy as possible. The Chain Reaction Contraption competition reverses that thinking by providing students a challenge—this year’s task being to make change for a dollar—and forcing them to complete the task in at least 20 steps. Judges then evaluate how the machines reflect critical thinking and engineering skills.
Chain Reaction Contraption is part of Carnegie Science Center’s celebration of National Engineers Week. “Chain Reaction Contraption focuses on the problem-solving and creative aspects of engineering,” says Linda Ortenzo, director of Carnegie Science Center’s Regional SciTech Initiative. “So many people think engineers need to be skilled only in math and science, but they also need to be able to bring a new perspective to a challenge and really think as they work to solve issues. These are vital skills for engineers.”
Since the beginning of the school year, the competing teams have completed several steps, including providing a design proposal in October and submitting several photographic progress reports during the construction and testing phases.
“Building a machine or a new product requires a level of documentation that we wanted the students to experience,” said Lisa Kosick, coordinator of the Chain Reaction Contraption Contest. “The competition isn’t just about throwing together as many steps as possible to get the job done, but planning and then adapting those plans during the process to reach a specific outcome.”
Contraptions must be built from everyday household items; can be no larger than five feet high, three feet wide, and two feet deep; and cannot use plug-in electrical equipment or animals. Relying primarily on the general laws of physics and the occasional battery to power their machines, the machines must include at least 20 steps and take at least 30 seconds to complete the task. Each machine must successfully complete the task at least eight times during the course of the competition.
The 2009 competition, won by North Allegheny Senior High School, required students to construct a building in 20 steps or more.
The Chain Reaction Contraption competition is made possible by the generous support of Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC, and the Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania.
Avella High School
Avonworth High School
Bay Village High School
Belle Vernon Area High School
Berlin Brothersvalley High School
Brentwood Borough School District
Burgettstown Area Middle High School
Butler Senior High School
Cameron County High School
Carlynton Junior/Senior High School
Deer Lakes High School
Ellwood City Area Schools
Franklin Regional Senior High School
Gateway High School
Greater Latrobe Senior High School
Hampton High School
Hempfield Area High School
Kiski Area High School
Laurel Junior/Senior High School
Mars Area High School
Mohawk Area School
Moon High School
New Brighton High School
North Allegheny Intermediate School
Reynolds School District
Saint Joseph High School
Seneca Valley Intermediate High School
Seneca Valley Senior High School
Serra Catholic High School
Smethport Area High School
Somerset Area School District
Springdale Junior/Senior High School
Trinity High School
Washington High School
Yough High School
About Carnegie Science Center
Carnegie Science Center brings the world of science alive for visitors of all ages. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Science Center features hands-on exhibits, three live demonstration theaters, a four-story Omnimax theater, Highmark SportsWorks®, an interactive full-dome digital planetarium, a Cold War-era submarine moored on Pittsburgh’s Ohio River, the world’s largest and most comprehensive robotics exhibition, and a world-renowned model railroad display. Carnegie Science Center is located at One Allegheny Avenue on Pittsburgh’s North Shore next to Heinz Field. Visit CarnegieScienceCenter.org, or call 412.237.3400 for more information.
About Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1895, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is a collection of four distinctive museums dedicated to exploration through art and science: Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum. In 2009, the museums reached more than 1.2 million people through exhibitions, educational programs, outreach activities, and special events.
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