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Pat Henry STEM students win $1,000 for program

Pat Henry Elementary STEM students were recognized as some of the best in the region Friday.

Using an engineering kit provided by the Garver engineering firm, fourth and fifth grade students spent a week designing and building a Rube Goldberg machine. Their creation was chosen as one of nine from 50 schools across 11 states to win the Garver Chain Reaction Challenge — earning the program a customized trophy and a check for $1,000 to fund additional STEM projects.

“The projects were each judged independently with a group of our corporate officers,” said Mary Elizabeth Mach, water team manager for Garver. “They looked at the different elements that were included, the complexity of the elements and how it all flowed together and if it actually worked. Pat Henry just blew them away.”

The challenge was created to celebrate Garver’s centennial. Representatives visited 100 schools across 11 states in the firm’s service area. Pat Henry Elementary was the first school on the centennial tour, which began in February. Engineers worked with fifth grade students to help them design and craft miniature machines. The students would later use the knowledge gained that day to help craft a much larger, more intricate machine that would win them the award.

“They gave us the challenge of building our own chain reaction machine and we got down to work,” said STEM teacher Doris Biegler. “We went with fourth and fifth grade because that’s the grades I work with in engineering. So with about 200 kids, we worked on this giant chain reaction machine.”

The process wasn’t easy. The students had a week to complete the machine before it they had to record a completed process to submit to Garver. The school only had one room within which the students could work — a room that was also used by every other grade level, from pre-Kindergarten through third grade. Biegler said that became a challenge.

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