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LPHS students win national engineering award

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The final prototype of team “Elevation’s” mousetrap car won them a national award in the SECME engineering competition. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOAH LEVINE

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Three Lone Peak High School students recently captured a national engineering competition award for their outstanding mousetrap car. Carly Wilson, Maddie Cone and Joah Levine joined forces on team “Elevation” to compete in and ultimately win the 2021 SECME National Student Engineering Competition featuring the “Art of Engineering.”

SECME, or the Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering, is a Georgia-based nonprofit started in 1975 as an alliance of educators, universities and industry and government partners committed to preparing more minorities and women for college and careers in STEM. The organization holds national competitions each year, while offering professional development and classroom resources for teachers and mentors committed to helping students with STEM projects. 

A congratulatory email reached Jeremy Harder’s inbox on June 16 from Julaunica Tigner, SECME Educational Outreach Manager informing him and the three students of their victory. Harder, the sixth through 12th grade technology teacher for the Big Sky School District, served as the faculty contact with SECME and provided the students with a space in his classroom to work on their project.

Levine, now a rising senior, was the catalyst for an LPHS team competing in a SECME competition. He hails from Boca Raton, Florida, where he began participating in SECME competitions in seventh grade. His family came to Big Sky during the COVID-19 pandemic and attends FAU High school in his hometown.

Levine reached out to Harder to see if there was a robotics club. There was not, so Levine grabbed the reins and started a fifth-grade robotics club and the high school SECME club. 

“I came to Lone Peak High and looked for some robotics activities because I had done a lot in my hometown and I wanted to bring it here,” Levine said. “A big part of my hometown was wanting to do well in all of our robotics activities and we also wanted to spread it … and help other communities grow their robotics programs.”

After a period of uncertainty over whether the SECME competition would even happen due to the pandemic, Levine said he and his team got to work and, five prototypes later, had their award-winning mousetrap car competition-ready.

“He’s a very creative, innovative young man who is way
ahead of my time in tech,” Harder said of Levine, adding that he was excited to see the kids take the initiative to enter this competition.

Levine’s teammate Wilson said she became involved after he asked her to join the SECME club. She said Levine did an outstanding job leading the team and recalled the hours that she, Cone and Levine spend finishing the mousetrap car and the presentation.

“When I received the email that we made it to nationals and then won first place I was shocked,” Wilson wrote in an email to EBS. “Even though I still have limited experience with the world of STEM and mousetrap cars, I would totally participate in this club again because it taught me so many new skills and helped me to push myself out of my comfort zone.”

Levine plans to be back in Florida next school year but said he hopes to see the club continue at LPHS and is willing to help. Though he’s headed back home, Levine has big plans for STEM at Ophir School and LPHS.

“Ideally, it would be fun to start either a middle school or elementary team, along with the high school team for SECME,” he said. “We can start expanding into some of the other [competitions], and who knows? Maybe win another national award.”

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