Peter Ruimerman wins first Cape and Islands Engineering Challenge

Ellie Reagan, a junior at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, readies her team's can crusher for testing. She won an honorable mention at the engineering challenge. — Photo courtesy of Natalie Munn

Peter Ruimerman, a junior at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), was one of three winners that tied for first place at the inaugural Cape and Islands Engineering Challenge held on Thursday, March 20. A total of 37 students participated, 10 each from MVRHS, the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, and Sandwich High School, and 7 from Cape Cod Regional Technical School (CCRTS).

MVRHS science teacher Natalie Munn organized the multi-school engineering challenge held at the Swope Conference Center in the Marine Biological Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Cape Light Compact sponsored the event with a $3,000 donation from its energy education program, which paid for the venue, Ms. Munn said.

MVRHS science teachers Dana Munn and Anna Cotton, math teacher Catherine DeGrandpre, and technology and design teacher Chris Connors helped Ms. Munn plan and run the event.  Five teachers from Sandwich, the Charter School and CCRTS also attended.

The regional event was patterned after the engineering challenge MVRHS holds monthly. The idea is to give students an opportunity to experience the process of engineering by working on a team to achieve a common goal, in a competition different from the yearly science fair.

Ms. Nunn contacted high schools on Nantucket and the Cape, inviting them to bring up to 10 students to compete in three separate challenges, kept secret until the competition.

For their first challenge, students made a produce scale using a bowl, string, some hooks, a strip of poster board, and a spring. They created a hand-operated soda/drink can crusher using a hinge, several pieces of 2 x 4 plywood, screws, pvc rings, and tape for the second challenge. For the third challenge, students made a desk lamp from cardboard, file folders, aluminum foil, a ring on a ring stand, three LED light bulbs, and a batch of wires and alligator clips.

Teams were made of students from different schools, and the members rotated for each challenge. Students received a score at the end of each challenge. Awards were based on their totals.

Ian McCartney and Savannah Reynolds of Sandwich High School tied for first place with Peter Ruimerman. Matthew Barton of the Charter School tied for second place with Jess Lizotte of Sandwich High School. Ian Wallace of Sandwich High School took third place.

After the challenge, the students and teachers enjoyed a lunch in the Swope Dining Hall. The program that followed featured three WHOI engineers, Megan Carroll, an MVRHS alumnus, Kaitlyn Tradd, and Loral O’Hara, who talked about their experiences with tethered and remotely operated ocean research submersible vehicles, such as “Alvin.”

Ms. Munn deemed the first Cape and Islands Engineering Challenge a success, and said that she hopes it will become an annual event, with more schools participating each year.