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Seneca Valley students win 'contraption' competition

| Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
Cranberry Journal
Emerson Maloney (from left), Tanner Quiggle, Cole Davis and Andrew Lingenfelter — along with supporting team members (not pictured) Kobie Rankin, Cory Nagel, Mitch Lachat and Jeff Rodrigues — earned first place in the Chain Reaction Contraption Engineering Competition at the Carnegie Science Center. Submitted

Seneca Valley students won first place at a Pittsburgh-area engineering competition.

“Teamwork is a huge factor in this. My friends and I, we work really great together,” Emerson Maloney, 15, said. He was among 18 students on the winning team of the Chain Reaction Contraption Engineering Competition.

The competition was sponsored by the Westinghouse Electric Company and hosted by the Carnegie Science Center. Students in the Pittsburgh area from grades 9 to 12 explored engineering by building a machine that, through several different stages and chain reactions, accomplishes a task.

This year, the task was to have the machine fill a container and close it in at least 20 steps.

After several brainstorming sessions, Maloney said the students decided to incorporate the history of science as the theme of their contraption, starting with the Big Bang and ending with marbles representing planets being encased by a “black hole.”

The students worked diligently from the beginning of the school year until December with the help of their official coach and gifted support teacher, Patricia Griest.

“The competition requires great intensity and great teamwork,” Griest said. “Working in teams, following very specific rules, keeping their project reasonable and attainable … finding ways to do that as an early high school student is quite a challenge for our kids.”

The students had to work a lot outside of class time, Maloney said.

“We had meetings on the weekends and some on the weekdays.”

At the competition, Maloney said that seeing some of the other contraptions was intimidating.

“We saw things that looked amazing (and) I really didn't think that we had a chance of getting first, second, or third,” he said.

But when their contraption ran consistently several times in a row and other contraptions could not, the Seneca Valley students were able to celebrate a joyful victory with their coach.

“It was just totally exciting,” Griest said. “I can't think of a more deserving group of kids.

“Seeing the fruits of my labor was really nice. This is what I want to do in life … I want to become an engineer.”

A video of the informative presentation and the contraption in action can be found on the Seneca Valley School District website,

Matt DeFusco is an intern with Trib Total Media.

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