On May 2, the Foam Warriors team was awarded the $5,000 first-place prize in the Miner Creativity Challenge for the STEM learning experience it created, the Quick Draw Cannon. The team was one of 11 to enter a toy designed and created for middle school students in the competition, which was open to teams of three to five S&T undergraduate or graduate students. The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
“The Miner Creativity Challenge is an opportunity for our students to design and build a STEM learning experience, and for middle school students to get excited and engaged around STEM concepts,” says Dr. Rachel Kohman, director of Kummer Student Programs, who organized the event in partnership with S&T’s Makerspace and the Kummer Center for STEM Education. “The challenge required S&T students to take the fundamental concepts they’re learning about in their classes and redefine them in fun and engaging ways for a specific audience.”
After observing local middle school students, who offered input on possible designs, teams worked closely with an S&T faculty or staff mentor who provided support and recommendations on product development, The teams then designed and built their prototypes. Many of these teams used the 3D print services offered by S&T’s Makerspace, which provides space for students to use a variety of tools and equipment. The challenge was sponsored by the Center for Creativity and Innovation, Kummer Student Programs, and the Product Innovation and Creativity Center.
On May 1, the middle school students scored each prototype based on engagement, educational content and ease of use. On May 2, the prototypes were reviewed by the deans of S&T’s three colleges Dr. Karen Head, director of the Center for Creativity and Innovation, and Courtney Jones, director of the Center for STEM Education. The S&T judges scored each prototype on factors ranging from overall construction and safety to clarity of instructions and affordability. Scores from both sets of judges were combined to determine winners.
“This was a big learning experience for us because it integrated the human usability factor,” says Brendan Crotty, a member of The Foam Warriors. “Our team is a group of friends who work together on designing and building things. We saw this challenge and thought it would be fun. We like prototyping things.”
Crotty describes the Quick Draw Cannon as a foam ball blaster, similar to a Nerf gun except that it’s wrist mounted and uses battery power. Its packaging—a wooden box—conveys a military look and feel. The team wanted the process of assembling the Quick Draw Cannon to require students to learn a little bit about physics, math and mechanics. Most importantly, the team wanted its creation to be fun.
“We were challenged to go beyond designing and building and develop a product that’s marketable,” Crotty says. “It had to be ergonomic and appealing to a specific market. We had to do budgeting and go through a whole branding process. These are things you wouldn’t normally do as part of a class.”
Crotty, who is CEO of S&T’s Makerspace, is a junior in mechanical engineering from Muskogee, Oklahoma. Other team members are Andrew Banta, a junior in computer science from Jefferson City, Missouri; Seth Huffman, a freshman in mechanical engineering from Warsaw, Missouri; Nick Johnson, a junior in mechanical engineering from Glen Ellyn, Illinois; and Abby Womack, a freshman in mechanical engineering from Jerseyville, Illinois.
The team that created the Tower Tumbler won the $3,000 second-place prize. Team members are Sebastian Davis, a senior in computer science from Blue Springs, Missouri; Hayden Krumpelman, a senior in mechanical engineering from Marceline, Missouri; Evan Roach, a senior in mechanical engineering from O’Fallon, Missouri; and Jacob Stobie, a senior in civil engineering from High Ridge, Missouri.
The team that created the Hydraulic Crane won the $1,000 third-place prize. Team members are Maxwell Attwood, a sophomore in mechanical engineering from Littleton, Colorado; Andrew Ellinghouse, a junior in architectural engineering from Dexter, Missouri; Adam Kokal, a junior in mechanical engineering from Chesterfield, Missouri; Kyle Renkoski, a junior in mechanical engineering from Pierce City, Missouri; and Braden Swift, a junior in economics from Bonne Terre, Missouri.
Crotty recalls watching the middle school students interact with the toys that were developed based on their input as a highlight.
“We got to see their faces light up as they opened the box that contained the Quick Draw Cannon,” he says.
About Missouri University of Science and Technology
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top 10 universities for return on investment, according to Business Insider. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.