By Greg Oliver
LIBERTY – Approximately 180 students representing 16 Pickens County elementary schools used engineering principles to race balloon-powered toy cars at the School District of Pickens County’s Jet Toy Challenge on Tuesday.
Two teams from Forest Acres Elementary School won the top two spots and will advance to the Anderson-Oconee-Pickens Jet Toy Challenge from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. March 1. The Riptides and Smoking Hot Wheels finished first and second, respectively, during the competition held at the Pickens County Career and Technology Center.
“We will have 14 teams next week and the top two teams from each region will go to Detroit (for the international competition),” said Barbara Nesbitt, the district’s coordinator of elementary education.
The program offers a curriculum blending science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) lessons. In the Jet Toy Challenge, a fictitious toy company asks students to provide a variety of interesting designs for a new line of balloon-powered vehicles that will appeal to other children.
The vehicles are made from inexpensive, common materials and the students, working in design teams, build and test model Jet Toys using different nozzles. Then, they collect and analyze the data to understand the effect of the nozzle size on the performance of the toys.
Nesbitt said the fifth-grade teachers learned about the Jet Toy Challenge by attending training for the Society of Automotive Engineers’ A World in Motion program.
“So many of the businesses moving to South Carolina are automotive,” Nesbitt said. “There’s such a strong connection with automotive here and we want to do something that provides career opportunities.”
Central Elementary School, which brought three teams consisting of a total of 13 students to Tuesday’s competition, saw one of the “Hot Spot” teams tie for the Artistic Design award with “Smoking Hot Wheels” from Forest Acres Elementary. Tami Fields, who coordinated the team and serves as the STEM teacher at the school, said students benefit tremendously from the competition.
“The students are working together and learning about force, acceleration and the various challenges involved,” Fields said. “It gets them to thinking about how to build our cars, rebuild engines and such. It’s getting them working toward a goal and changing what we have”.
This year marked the first that Six Mile Elementary School has fielded a team. The school brought three teams with 12 students participating overall, to the Jet Toy Challenge.
“This (competition) allows them to use their knowledge about force in motion, but also engineering, about going through a process to assemble something and making it better,” Orr said. “It’s a lot of fun for them.”
Clemson Elementary fifth-grader Sam Wyant said the completion had its challenges.
“The most challenging thing is to get it (car) to travel straight,” Wyant said. “All my friends said ‘Don’t hit the wall.’”
By Greg Oliver