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Morning Sun
  • Patrick's People — FHS students take top honors at High School Design Competition

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  • A group of Frontenac High School students have brought even more honor to their school.
    Students in the design engineering class taught by Keith Akin brought home the top overall honor from "License to Build," the 2013 High School Design Competition sponsored by the University of Kansas School of Engineering and the Halliburton Company. It was held Nov. 5 at the KU engineering complex.
    "There were 80 teams taking part in the competition," Akin said. "About 450 kids total were there."
    The five from Frontenac who competed were Brody Benthin, James Brooks, Kylan Dixon, Kyle Loy and Gunnar Toney. Loy, a member of the Raiders football team, had a game that night and wasn't able to go to Lawrence.
    Akin said that the students received competition rules about three weeks before the event. They were required to design and build a mechanical vehicle that could complete a drop test, a speed test and a water test. Size could not exceed eight by eight inches.
    "The vehicle had to be dropped from 20 feet up and not break," Loy said. "For the land race, the vehicle had to go 19 feet and up a ramp with a 30-degree incline. In the water event, the vehicle had to pick up magnets three inches below the surface. This was 10 feet long and we had one minute to finish."
    He was designer for the vehicle built by his team, which also included Benthin and Toney. The other team competing was composed of Brooks and Dixon.
    "We won the land race and the overall competition," Loy said.
    His team's vehicle had eyelets on the sides, to which they secured a parachute that enabled the vehicle to survive the drop test. Loy said the eyelets also had an unexpected benefit.
    "When our car hit walls, they helped it bounce off," he said. "That saved us."
    Loy said the wheels had a gear on the axle that turned a paddlewheel, similar to those on riverboats, which propelled his team's vehicle through the water.
    "I drew the design for the paddle on the computer, then cut the paddle out of plexiglass with a laser engraver," he said.
    Toney said the vehicle was powered by two AA batteries.
    Brooks and Dixon said they worked overnight, 10 hours straight, to get their vehicle completed for the competition.
    "Our car was water proof," Brooks said.
    Loy conceded that his team's car was not.
    "Our car was water resistant," he said.
    In addition to designing and building the vehicles and going through the tests, students also had to prepare a five-minute presentation and make a display board.
    "That helped develop their communication skills," Akin said.
    He added that the designing process was a good educational opportunity for his students.
    Page 2 of 2 - "These kinds of problem solving events are a great experience," the teacher said. "It's the kind of thing that engineering students will need to do."
    Loy is interested in becoming a design engineer, while Dixon is thinking of pursuing mechanical engineering.
    Akin said this was the second year Frontenac has sent students to the KU High School Design Competition.
    "I'd like to keep going to it as long as we can," he said. "Not only is it good for the students, the competition is free. We built the vehicles using our own materials, there was no entry fee, they gave us free T-shirts and we got free pizza all day."

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