Two Blue Springs schools may be designing the next great exhibit at Science City in Kansas City.
Both Blue Springs High School and Cordill-Mason Elementary have become part of the top 20 finalists in the “Battle of the Brains” contest sponsored by local engineering firm Burns & McDonnell. The contest is an educational competition where schools all across the metropolitan area can propose elaborate plans for a future exhibit at Science City of Union Station. The winners in both primary and secondary categories can earn a portion of a $155,000 grant toward science, technology, engineering and math education for their respective schools.
According to the Battle of the Brains rules, the proposed exhibits had to focus on real-world categories such as health, sustainability, and transportation.
Blue Springs High School’s biomedical science and engineering students proposed “A Journey Inside the Human Body” exhibit. The proposal would consist of a human body large enough where visitors could walk through and explore various bodily systems. Visitors would observe different sections in order to learn about clogged arteries relating to heart disease, the differences between male and female skeletal systems and several others.
Teacher Alicia Leimkuehler says she is thrilled that her students’ efforts became one of the 20 finalists. “They (the students) are so excited. It was such a highlight of my career to reveal they were finalists. It was so worthwhile to see students being rewarded for a lot of their hard work.”
The “Journey” project was the result of ideas by students pursuing a future career in medicine or biomedical technology. According to Leimkuehler, the students have spent their entire high school time learning about the human body through learning labs and subsequently chose some of their own favorites for inspiration. They later thought about what questions they still had, what they wanted to know more about, and what experiences they believed would help them learn better. Thus came “A Journey Inside the Human Body.”
Senior Shannen Stout said, “We want people to be informed about their health and the impact genetics and lifestyle choices have on our body’s ability to function.”
Instead of a health-oriented exhibit, Cordill-Mason fifth graders chose water conservation that is geared for the sustainability category.
“Our students decided that water sustainability is one of the most important issues today,” said teacher Jennifer Medina who coordinated the Cordill-Mason proposal named “Every Last Drop..”. “A lot of kids don’t realize that most water is unusable and also finite. The more research we've done, the more we became thankful for living in a part of the world where ususable water is accessible and readily available.”
Medina said “Every Last Drop” would be a series of exhibits all relating to water sustainability. “What can we do to make our water last?” was one of the central questions Cordill-Mason students wanted to answer during the conception of their exhibit proposal. Some of the highlights include a water purification simulator where visitors would take part on a four-dimensional ride that is commonly found in arcades in which the visitor would experience the journey of how a water molecule starts from a stream and ends up in your sink.
An interactive game that would teach visitors the difference between types of water was also part of their proposed “Every Last Drop” exhibit. In the “Water Wall” section participants would manipulate piping marked by LED lighting instead of actual water in order to take usable water (gray water) to a garden and unusable (black water) to the sewer. They have to be careful, however, because the game is over if gray comes into contact with the black water. Medina says the proposal was inspired by the popular Disney app, “Where’s My Water?”. Visitors would be directing water by using levers and wheels through obstacles such as sinks and laundry machines to their correct destination.
“The kids are ecstatic about placing in the top 20,” says Medina. “They talked about the odds and realized they were 10 out of 500.”
Each school is competing within their respective age groups. The final selection is partially determined by public voting while the remaining portion is judged by a panel of both Science City and Burns & McDonnell personnel. You can support your school or choose your favorite exhibit offered by the other final 20 selections by voting at www.battleofthebrainskc.com.