By Clair Mays
Arkadelphia Public Schools
Peake Elementary School GT Fifth Graders joined about 100 fifth-grade gifted and talented students from Dawson co-op schools at the Suddenlink STEM day on Friday, March 11, at Arkansas State University Three Rivers campus. Students worked on building roller coasters in cooperative teams.
Teams were composed of students from other schools rather than from their home districts. This gave students the opportunity to work on both “soft skills” and STEM skills. Suddenlink Communications, provided by Altice USA, awarded a $500 grant to pay for all the supplies, snacks, and prizes for the day.
After several fun icebreakers to help everyone get to know each other better, each team received a bag of identical supplies and about 90 minutes to build their best roller coaster. Roller coasters had to be freestanding and fully functioning. Supplies included foam pipe insulation, popsicle sticks, straws, paper plates, colored paper, cardboard tubes and tape.
Students could also choose colored streamers and duct tape to enhance their chosen theme. Prizes were awarded in five categories: best theme, most technical, safest, most team spirit, and judges’ choice. Judges from Suddenlink and ASU Three Rivers visited each team to hear students explain their roller coaster and engineering design process.
The finished roller coasters were amazing and included a wide range of themes such as Space Snack Patrol, American Rocket Ship, Fire in the Hole, Dragon’s Breath and many more. Even though they were given the same supplies, each team created not only a unique theme but also designed a one-of-a-kind roller coaster.