A team of fifth-graders from Encinal School won second place for overall solution in a field of fifth- and six-graders at the 2011 Tech Challenge, held at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose on April 30.
The challenge was to design and build a system to pick up plastic bottles from the ocean without harming fish and kelp.
The three Encinal students worked for three months, creating a solution using materials such as a PVC pipe, vacuum tubing, duct tape, recycled cardboard, a reusable shopping bag and a handheld vacuum.
"It was really cool to try out lots of ideas and then narrow in on the best ones," said team member Alexander Takayama.
Team member Aidan McKay added, "We learned a lot about the engineering design process."
On the day of the competition, the boys presented their solution and shared their design journal with a team of judges.
In addition, they had five minutes to show their machine in action. Two minutes were allowed for setup, followed by three minutes to collect two 2-liter bottles and three bottle caps. The device met the design challenge and beat their best practice time by over 45 seconds.
The challenge drew a record number of participants: 263 teams and more than 1,200 students.
"Three heads are better than one," observed team member Kyle Conrad, "You can come up with a much better solution working with a team."
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