Lubbock middle schoolers build and race derby cars in STEM Challenge

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 10:49 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Lubbock ISD middle schoolers are teaming up with Texas Tech mentors for the annual STEM Challenge. This year, students are designing, building and racing their own self-propelled derby cars.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Every summer, the STEM challenge pits 10 middle school teams against each other to build their own creation in just one week. Seventh grader Violet Delano at the Talkington School for Young Women Leaders described the challenge.

“We kind of brainstorm. We laugh a lot. We do definitely cause chaos, lots of chaos,” Delano said.

The teams are made up of two boys, two girls, a teacher and a mentor from Texas Tech. Friday, the teams will compete tournament-style.

“We’ll be against one other team, and it’s two laps around, each of us do half a lap. Whoever has the fastest time wins that and you just move up in the bracket until there’s two teams left,” Eighth grader at Talkington, Annie Hart said.

Brayden Hall, who is going into the eight grade at Atkins Middle School next year, says he’s learning how to be more resourceful, and that the challenge introduces you to students from other schools.

“It’s kind of boring at home so, just sitting there playing video games and stuff. And you get to do this stuff, hang out with your friends still, and you make more friends here than you can possibly make at school,” Hall said.

Mentors Makayle Cline and Blake Mclemore competed in the very first STEM Challenge in 2014. They and their teammates are all either in or have finished the engineering program at Texas Tech.

“Back then it instilled this kind of problem-solving drive in me, and I kind of felt like I owed something back to the program. I wanted to see if I can recreate that kind of energy with this new group of kids,” Mclemore said.

Cline is also in the Society of Women Engineers at Texas Tech, hoping to inspire the next generation of girls in STEM, the all-girl team from Talkington.

“One of our biggest priorities as an organization, as a woman organization, has been to reach out to younger females in the community that are interested in STEM,” Cline said. “Really introducing stem to children younger so they can build the confidence to pursue something like that.”

“If you’re questioning STEM, do it. You have to do it, otherwise you’re going to, you might miss a massive opportunity,” Delano said. “This has been so fun, really enjoyed it. It is probably one of the best things I’ll do all summer.”

The middle school teams will race the derby cars Friday morning at 10 at the Monterey High School track and field.