Students TEAM up for national competition


Jan Keller

The Parkway team finishes first in local competition at St. Louis Community College, becoming state champions.

Lilly Bucher, Staff Writer

This summer juniors Alec Zhou, Adam Johnson, Haran Kumar, Yash Nayak, Sophia McMorrow, Sophia Malpocker, Alexa Ling and Rachel Wang are participating in the Tests of Engineering, Aptitude, Mathematics and Science (TEAMS) national competition in Orlando, FL.  

From June 21-24, the students will work as a team and apply their math and science skills to everyday science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experiments.    

“[Being accepted into the competition is] based on academics and interests,” science teacher and chaperone Jan Keller said. “They get points and then they get scored. We have made the top 10 in nationals twice.”

In order to qualify for nationals, the team won a local competition at St. Louis Community College scoring a 41 in their division.

“The scores from the local competition were compared to the scores from across the state,” Keller said. “That is how we became state champions.”

The final component of the local contest they competed in to move on to nationals was a hands-on building project. Students built a robot arm that had to pick up a water bottle, move it 20 inches and put it down in a target zone.

“They were scored on how economical their arm was and they had to build it right there at the competition,” Keller said. “That was called the design and build part. Each thing that they used, like if they used cardboard they had to keep track of how much the cardboard cost, like if they used wooden dowel rods, they had to build it the most economically. They had to keep track of how much their arm cost to build.”

Ling prepares for the National competition by studying the theme of Nationals “Engineering the Environment,” common equations and general jargon associated with the theme.    

“People say it’s pretty hard, [but] the multiple choice you can kind of prepare for,” Ling said. “The building is insanely hard. It’s a big mystery, what we’re going to build. This one year [the prompt was to] build a telescope out of like Saran wrap. That was interesting.”

Malpocker’s favorite part of the competition, out of the four times Parkway had been to nationals, is the building and active testing phase.

“You don’t know what you’re building until the day of the competition,” Malpocker said. “You have to think on your feet. It teaches people to work together, and not everyone can be the leader. You just have to work together.”

The presentation topic they were given to present at Nationals is about designing new portable water systems in St. Louis. The teams essay for Nationals is on how to improve energy sources in Missouri.

“They actually devised a windmill that was more efficient [than other energy sources in Missouri],” Keller said.

Ling has been preparing for nationals like she does for a test.

“We all try to get a good night’s sleep the night before, as the questions test critical thinking as much as content knowledge,” Ling said. “Eat a good breakfast, review your notes, try not to psych yourself out too much. Basically what you’d do before a big test. Except, of course, it’s a competition.”