Here’s the challenge: The longest continuous bridge over water—aka the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway—needs moveable signs to help alert drivers to severe weather, accidents and closures. It’s your job to design a rotating support that would hold a 500-pound sign that is 4 feet high and 8 feet wide. Oh, and there’s a 100-pound light that it has to support, too—and the light must be positioned at least 20 feet above the mounting base and hold the bottom of the sign at least 15 feet above the mounting base.
No sweat, right? Did we mention you have four hours and 15 minutes to design the support and then present your design before a panel of judges?
Students from five area high schools did just that during the 2017 Chevron Design Challenge for the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast, which was held at the University of New Orleans on May 20 and was the first time the event has been held in Louisiana. The engineering design competition was made possible by a sponsorship from Chevron and organized by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students in all grades engage in hands-on learning opportunities that empower them to discover, explore, imagine and design solutions to real-world challenges. The University of New Orleans recently became a University Partner with Project Lead the Way.
During the event at UNO, eight, three-person teams from Lusher Charter School, Fontainebleau High School, St. Martin’s Episcopal School, McDonogh 35 Senior High School and New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School set about trying to design a support for causeway signage and lights. Their work included collaborating, brainstorming, questioning, sketching design solutions, meeting with coaches and, finally, conducting a presentation and elevator pitch for how and why their design would work.
A team from Lusher took the first place prize, with each of the students receiving an Asus transformer book, which is a tablet and mini-laptop. Fontainebleau’s team took second place and each student received a $150 Amazon gift card. St. Martin’s won third place, entitling each student to a GoPro camera. And a team from McDonogh 35 won the team spirit award, which came with a $50 gift card for each team member.
Participating teachers were Tracy Hoffman from Fontainebleau, Matt Owen from Lusher, Richard Humphreys from St. Martin’s, Menard Baptiste from McDonogh 35, and Courtney Guidry and Rae Goldman from New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School.
UNO collaborates and hosts many youth science and engineering programs throughout the year as part of its effort to engage, challenge and inspire young students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. UNO offers the only civil, electrical, mechanical, and naval architecture and marine engineering programs in the metro area, making it an ideal host for such events.