Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Community Campus Engineering Academy excites Students

Gorged by a golf ball and soaring over the moon, the bespeckled, fist-size Chick-fil-A cow landed with a thud against the window in Apollo High School’s front lobby.

“Not a bad shot,” mused Landon Meserve, squatting behind his homemade catapult on Friday. “It’s all about the distance from the arm to this crossbar, here,” he said, pointing to a complicated maze of screws, rope, wood and bungee cords.

Meserve is one of 24 regional students in Daviess County Public School’s Project Lead the Way, a national curriculum marrying reality-based college courses with local, hands-on instruction. Students from DCPS, Owensboro, Trinity and Owensboro Catholic high schools are dropped off at, drive or are bused to Apollo’s campus for first period before joining their home schools the rest of the day.

Technology educators Aaron Yeiser and Steven May challenged the teens to calculate distance, displacement, speed, velocity and acceleration from data and to design, build and test a vehicle that stores and releases potential energy for propulsion — all in two weeks’ time.

“We do a version of the competition every year,” May said. “This year, we thought of using cows and getting corporate sponsorship, and it worked out.”

Chick-fil-A sent out their mascot and donated small, stuffed cows for the event, while Mays and fellow teachers honored students with the farthest overall shot and gave points for a series of 10 accuracy shots.

No slingshots were allowed, Mays said, and students only got five practice shots. They got 25 points to shoot the cow over the hand-painted, 6-foot-tall moon; lesser points for landing in one of three 5-gallon buckets; and 10 points per pin for cow bowling. The points doubled for bowling, he said, if students got a strike.

Meserve aimed, pulling back four and a half inches — 10 feet worth of distance —- at a time. He missed, and then a strike. He and his OHS partner, Buxton Johnson, took first with 375 points, Catholic High junior Kali Paul rounded out the bottom with only 70 points.

“Ours is tiny, so it’s like the underdog,” Paul said, pointing to her own, cow-painted creation, at least two feet shorter than Meserve’s. “We didn’t do so well. My catapult is going to Chick-fil-A, and it’s going to retire there.”

Paul and her partner make up a growing minority of women interested in engineering, a statistic college and career readiness coordinator Marcia Carpenter said they’re working to overcome.

“Right now, the national average is 11 percent, and we have 7,” she said, “but hopefully programs like Project Lead the Way will help that.”

Megan Harris, 691-7302, mharris@messenger-inquirer.com

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