Shaler Area bested 19 teams to win the fifth annual STEAM competition
Monday, March 16, 2020 | 11:00 PM
Shaler Area High School students won first place in the fifth annual STEAM competition their school hosted March 6.
The team of juniors Charlie Nieder, Dylan Matthews, Sonny DeMasi, Jonathan Zang, and Ryan Rupert bested 19 teams from school districts in six different counties in the daylong competition that incorporated multiple aspects of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).
Clarion Area placed second overall and Mars Area took third.
The competition challenged students to complete four on-site team challenges in 35 minutes incorporating the competition’s medieval times theme. The students were unaware of the challenges, which a committee of 14 Shaler Area teachers developed, in advance of the competition.
“We definitely weren’t expecting the win. I mean ‘cause we knew we did pretty good with all of the challenges and whatnot. We just weren’t thinking that we did consistently the best. Next thing you know, they call your name as the winners. We all jumped up, started screaming. And yeah, I definitely want to do it again next year because I had so much fun that day,” Zang said.
Event co-director and math teacher Paul Stadelman was very pleased with how the event turned out.
“We were hopeful that we’d always compete and win because we know we have some of the best kids around, but we were really happy to see how well they did throughout the day. They were very consistent when we went through and tallied all the scores. I don’t think they won any single one event, but they performed well at all of them,” Stadelman said.
Zang’s favorite challenge involved constructing a drawbridge from pencils, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks and folders that could withstand 1.2 kilograms. The team earned maximum points for their efforts.
“We exceeded the weight limit that was given to us. We had to get more. Actually, it’s my favorite challenge because of how well it worked out and everything,” he said.
Another challenge required students to create a device to absorb a jousting lance’s impact.
“For that one, I didn’t expect to do so well, but I think it was really tough for a lot of people because you had to not only minimize the force at the entire front of the cart, but because it was a jousting thing, it was at a specific point so it was much more difficult than it had seemed to be,” DeMasi said.
Shaler Area placed third for the challenge.
Participants received details in October for an off-site project: They had to produce a tennis-ball catapult capable of hitting a target at various distances. Material costs could not exceed $200. Panels judged the devices on aesthetics, with Taylor Allderdice winning for its castle theme.
In between the other activities, students could complete math problems for additional points.
“You had to manage your time efficiently to be able to complete, not just the math problems, but the challenges as well. … We had to split up the responsibilities pretty well to be able to complete all of the tasks that were given to us,” said Nieder.
Rupert said that he and his teammates divided responsibilities based upon the students’ strengths.
“Between the five of us, we are all in the three different main sciences that our school offers. So we split challenges up depending on what science they were applying.”
Science teacher Greg Mason co-directs the event alongside Stadelman. Physics teacher Brian Davis sponsored Shaler Area’s team.
“This is a total overall high school initiative where teachers in all content areas and subjects come together to work on that day. Without the support of that staff, whether it be clerical or administration or teachers or student volunteers we couldn’t do it,” said Davis.
PPG, Chevron, University of Pittsburgh College in High School program, PGH Law and GPSA Inc. sponsored this year’s competition.