Team members from St. Therese School in Kansas City, Mo., did not know what to expect when they were competing at the Construction Challenge regional rally, but the team, now sponsored by the American Rental Association (ARA), managed to come in first place overall, allowing them to advance to the championship competition in Knoxville, Tenn., May 19-23, 2009.
“We were so surprised,” says Maggie Lanham, a seventh-grade student on the team. “This was our first year and we did not think we would win. It’s great.”
Other team members include sixth-graders John Perlik and Mitchell McDonald, seventh-graders Adam Phillips and Mariah Ramirez and eighth-graders Jill Kallenberger and Alex Carlisle. Sara McDonald, Mitchell’s mother and the school’s seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher, manages the team.
The regional rally took place Feb. 7, 2009, in Kansas City, Mo., and consisted of three challenges in the categories of presentation, equipping the future and tech simulation.
For the first challenge on presentation, the students had to solve an infrastructure problem. At the rally, they opened a sealed envelope that revealed their topic was sewage. They then had an hour to create a display depicting sewage issues. The St. Therese team placed first in the challenge among the 27 teams competing.
The students finished third in the next challenge, which required the team to design equipment to meet certain manufacturing criteria. The members had 20 minutes to create equipment, use it to separate 1-in.-by-1-in. blocks from golf balls mixed in a bin and move each type of item to a different location without being able to touch the items with their hands.
Finally, in the tech simulation challenge, the team finished in second place as five of the students served as on-site technicians for a machine they had made and had to communicate with two other students at another location who had the manual for the machine. The St. Therese team accomplished 17 of the 20 required adjustments and repairs, scoring better on the challenge than a high school team that met only 10 of the requirements.
According to McDonald, the competition lived up to its advertisement of being both educational and fun. “I think that the most surprising thing is how much fun they had,” she says. “It was challenging and it was problem-solving, but they really did have a good time and liked doing it.”
Since winning the regional rally, the students have prepared to compete against the 17 other middle school teams that advanced to the Construction Challenge Global Finals competition by practicing three times a week for two hours each session in between other activities such as music lessons, softball and basketball. The eighth-grade team members have demonstrated added commitment to the competition with their willingness to forego their eighth-grade graduation and Fun Day, which occur on the same dates as the finals.
“We are really glad we get to go to Knoxville, but I’m also a little sad because I will be missing eighth-grade graduation,” Kallenberger says.
The payoff, the students say, is worth it. “We hope to gain life skills we can use in the future,” Perlik says.
Carla Brozick, ARA’s director of education and training, says that this is the reason ARA sponsors a team during the national competition, which is offered by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and Destination ImagiNation (DI), a nonprofit organization based in Glassboro, N.J.
“This event is a great way to expose these students to the construction-related fields, including the world of equipment rental,” she says. “By sponsoring a team, we can interact with these students and the others who are involved in the competition and let them know what the rental industry can offer them career-wise. In addition to the actual competition, we invited these students to tour Bledsoe Rentals in Lee’s Summit, Mo., so they can see what is involved and talk with our members. It offers a wonderful way to reach out to students who might not have otherwise known about equipment rental.”