Middle school science and gifted teacher Annalisa Stonner said her students at Delta Woods Middle School have been learning physical science this year, and density was the first topic covered.

So, to come up with an idea for a project exhibit to submit for Burns & McDonnell's “Battle of the Brains” competition to possibly win money for the school and help design an exhibit for Science City at Union Station, they picked the most current subject.

“They talked about something with miniature golf or magnets, then decided on density,” said Stonner, adding that she's taught this group of seventh and eighth graders for three years. “We've been working on it August through October. When you can combine it with content teaching, it helps.”

The Delta Woods students' entry, “Welcome to DenCITY,” finished fourth in the semi-annual STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) competition, as officials announced the final results Wednesday at Union Station.

The school receives a $15,000 grant. Another Blue Springs District school, Cordill-Mason Elementary, also finished as a top-20 finalist. The competition had 840 entries from 270 schools spanning 50 districts in the Kansas City area. More than 7,000 students participated.

The top 20 entries were evaluated against each other by judges, with that score making up 70 percent of the final ranking. Public votes determined the remaining 30 percent of rankings.

This year marks the fifth straight time the gifted students from Cordill-Mason and instructor Jennifer Medina have placed in the top 20, the district said.

Stonner said her students put together a competition project when they were in elementary school, as well.

“I think they really liked the opportunity in classroom to dream big and think outside the box,” she said. “That's what the competition calls for.”

Part of what made Wednesday special was Stonner and Medina's students experienced the awards ceremony with hundreds of peers.

“Today they got to go show off their hard work, and they got to be celebrities for a day,” Stonner said.

Tonganoxie Middle School had the winning project and received a $50,000 grant, and its students get to help design the next $1 million exhibit at Science City at Union Station. Students from previous competitions have inspired five current exhibits at Science City.