SUBLETTE COUNTY – The Punchers once again proved that they can compete academically with any school at the 2021 State TEAMS competition. The event, hosted by the University of Wyoming and Technology Student Association, took place virtually on March 1. Big Piney High School received the full, graded results in late April.
TEAMS stands for Tests of Engineering, Aptitude, Mathematics and Science, and is a nationwide contest challenging students to demonstrate their STEM skills.
BPHS entered four teams this year – two groups of juniors and seniors and two freshman and sophomore squads, said Michelle Hymas, TEAMS advisor and district technology coordinator. Due to caps on group sizes, several sophomores joined the junior/senior teams, Hymas added.
BPHS’s junior/senior Team A, consisting of Anton Vickrey, Zoe Long, Brandon Jones and D.J. Varela, took first place at State. Junior and senior Team B – Brayden Hymas, Maggie Allmon and Kenedi Fazendin – came in third place.
On the freshman/sophomore level, Thomas Howard, Julia Hymas and Jackie Meador won first place. James McCormick, Rayne Wheeler, Clayton Mullikin and Maerin Fazendin placed second.
The theme this year was designing and building a delivery system to operate in a COVID-19 world, Hymas said.
Each team is required to submit an APA written report before the competition. On event day, the groups take an exam before receiving materials to engineer a machine capable of moving a product a specified distance in a given timeframe.
All four team members come up with their own design and ideas during the building phase before they come together to choose a design and make modifications, Hymas said.
The students are also required to submit a cost estimate for their project, Hymas added. University of Wyoming faculty grades the essays, tests and the final projects. The final projects are judged on efficiency, cost and whether they made it to the finish line in the allotted time, Hymas explained. Three of the four BPHS teams met all the criteria.
Students typically travel to Laramie to compete. Due to public health restrictions, the University of Wyoming held this year’s event remotely via Google Hangouts, Hymas said.
Hymas thanked local volunteers and district staff – Melanie Bennett, B.J. Meador, Angie Clifford and Ben Scherbel – for proctoring the online exams and making sure technology stayed up and running.
Making it work
The TEAMS competition involves a significant time commitment before the event.
“We would meet in our amazing coaches’ room every Thursday or Wednesday depending on schedules,” said junior Zoe Long. “Once we got closer to the competition day, we would meet up to three times a week as needed.”
Group members wrote essays outlining proposals for the project. Junior Anton Vickrey said preparing the paper allowed him to delve into subjects he enjoys.
“My favorite part was the research that went into writing the paper,” he said. “A.I. (artificial intelligence) is fascinating, and I always get excited when I get a chance to express this interest to others with the same passion.”
The participants agreed that the exam on competition day was the hardest part of the process.
“The questions were very difficult and made us all think a lot,” said freshman Julia Hymas.
Upper classmen seemed to have a bit of an advantage on the exam.
“The test/exam covered a lot of subjects and math skills that we haven’t learned yet,” stated freshman Jackie Meador.
Each team moved onto the building phase after the exam.
“We built a machine that moved masks from one place to another without touching (other masks),” Julia Hymas said. “This had a lot in common with today’s society because of the pandemic and how we could make getting supplies to places more efficiently and quickly.”
Paper towels substituted for masks during the building phase, Vickrey said.
“We had to build a device that could move paper towels from one box to another without getting near other paper towels – just like trying to distribute vaccines or supplies for COVID-19 while also being able to social distance and stay clean,” he explained.
The project also challenged students to develop transportation that saved energy.
“The CEWT, or COVID electrolysis water truck, is powered by using water electrolysis so it is efficient and wouldn’t leave much of a carbon footprint,” Meador said.
In the professional world, engineers and contractors have access to a wide range of sophisticated tools and materials. The students assembled for the TEAMS competition had to make due with a simpler toolbox.
“It was just popsicle sticks, rubberbands and binder clips that we used to pick up paper towels from point A to point B,” Long said. “Our project was very successful in our minds, even under the pressure of time.”
Success centered on teamwork. Hymas and Meador stated their group meshed right away.
“We had a great team, and we all seemed to just mutually agree on the design we were going to build,” Hymas said. “We just kept thinking and altering what needed to be fixed.”
“I believe that working together as a group helped us because someone could point out something that someone else may have never seen,” Meador added.
The junior/senior team A experienced a few bumps in the road to finding its team rhythm. Vickrey explained that, as many groups find out, different personalities can create obstacles at first.
“Group work has always been a challenge for me, as I work better solo,” he said. “But when we finally put our heads together, we worked pretty well as a team.”
Long said the time pressure actually helped the team members realize they needed to collaborate better.
“We had to trust each other and remember that we only had a short amount of time left,” she said.
Vickrey encouraged other students to join the TEAMS competition next year.
“We can only get better with wider and more diverse groups,” he said. “If you have even the slightest interest in engineering, physics and science, this is the perfect opportunity.”