Stoughton students shine in global construction competition
Six Stoughton High School seniors, part of a construction team representing the school’s new engineering program, placed seventh out of 30 schools in a global construction competition held in Knoxville, Tenn., last week.
Christine Howe, Rachel Tesler, Mike Kourafas, Brendan Riske, Jackie Fitzgerald and Jess Herron participated in a five-day competition sponsored by Destination ImagiNation, an organization that teaches creativity, problem-solving and teamwork.
The team faced a series of mind-boggling challenges, including devising a public relations campaign for using bio-asphalts, designing a remote control device to move pipes and other materials to direct water into specific drains, and using a remote control device to move and stack boxes, stopping at intervals to repair the device.
SHS Science Department head Janet Sullivan was pleased with the students’ performance.
“I think it’s going to take our engineering program to the next level,” Sullivan said. “It gave them a great view of careers and opportunities out there, and hopefully we can do it next year.”
SHS teacher Tim Norton, who runs the school’s new engineering program, accompanied the students to the convention but said they had to solve the problems independently. Norton said the SHS team put on an impressive performance, especially since they were from a brand new program, and they did not have any corporate sponsors, which benefited other teams.
The students said they couldn’t believe the complexity of the challenges, which were divided into three different sessions, but they just tried to keep cool and work deliberately toward their goal.
“It was a lot of fun, and a lot of work. The challenges were overwhelming, but we knew we had to do it. And we ended up succeeding more than we thought,” Riske said.
“I was surprised at how well we did compared to other teams who had more experience. People kept commenting as to how well the team worked together,” Tesler said.
In order to qualify for the event, the team won a regional competition, which took place at the O’Donnell Middle School in February. Only two other New England teams advanced beyond that competition; one was from Monadnock Regional High School in Swansea, New Hampshire and the other was from Southeastern Regional Technical Vocational High School, in Easton.
The Monadnock school won the regional competition, and received a sponsorship from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Stoughton scored higher than the other two local teams in the global competition. Other countries in the global competition included Turkey, China, Japan, Brazil, Poland, Mexico, Guatamala, England and South Korea
The purpose of the competition was to engage students in real world experiences, and to interest them in a diverse number of jobs in construction. Destitination ImagiNation estimates there will be one million new construction jobs by 2012, including designers, engineers, parts coordinators, service technicians, service coordinators, technical educators, and welders.
Norton, who was hired in September to run the new engineering program, said the competition was an ideal way for his students to demonstrate the skills they have learned over the year. He said he has taught his kids to use creative and critical thinking skills by asking them to solve problems using hands-on activities.
“It’s a different way of thinking. You have to find and come up with a solution, and you have to think outside of the box,” he said.
Stoughton Journal writer Candace Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org