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Ironwood team wins engineering olympics


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IRONWOOD STUDENTS, clockwise from left, Robert Burchell, Brody Stefonich, Jared Sobolewski and Jacob DiGiorgio work on assembling part of their roller coaster for the "engineered here" category of the Engineering Olympics held at Michigan Tech in Houghton on March 24.

IRONWOOD - For the fifth year in a row, the Ironwood physics team took first place in the Engineering Olympics at Michigan Tech University on March 24.

The team - also known as the 22 students in Kevin Lyon's 12th grade physics class - was divided into groups, with each group competing in one of the tournament's five categories.

Designed to use a number of physics principles, four of the categories - building a trebuchet, mouse trap-powered car, a tooth-pick bridge and a tennis ball launcher - allowed students to work on a design that was brought to the tournament while a fifth - "engineered here" - category forced them to complete a mystery challenge using parts provided to them upon arrival. The mystery contest required teams to build a roller coaster that a ping-pong ball could travel on.

Each machine was required to complete a task, such as the trebuchet having to launch a basketball and try to make a basket from the free-throw line.

Lyons said while a team could use trial and error to compete without a solid knowledge of physics, understanding the concepts certainly made building the devices easier.

"You can go up there and you can compete without knowing too much about physics, a lot of trial and error," said Lyons. "But if you understand the physics behind it, your trial and error becomes easier because you know the relationship between force and acceleration, and the trajectory of a ball (for example)."

Ironwood's groups took second place in the bridge contest; a first and fourth in the mouse trap-powered car; second, third and fourth in the tennis ball launcher; second and third places in the trebuchet and second in the "engineered here" contest.

The tourney's scoring system awarded a set number of points for a first, second and third place finish, with the points totaled for an overall score.

Ironwood competed against teams from schools in Big Bay de Noc, Lake Linden, Menominee, Mid Peninsula, Stephenson and Watersmeet.

Students started working on projects at the beginning of the semester, Lyons said.

"They really really did work hard," said Lyons. "I think they learned a lot and they had a lot of fun."

Senior Daniel Freeman, who competed with the trebuchet and mouse-trap car, said, "It was a lot of fun," said Freeman. "It was a good time."

While neither of the groups he was in took first, he said they could have potentially improved if they had another opportunity. Among the lessons he learned was starting to build the designs earlier and weighing machines prior to the competition to avoid penalities.

Ironwood has competed in the Michigan Tech science olympics every year since it began 24 years ago, according to Lyons.


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