BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Today, seven STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teams from four school districts competed for the contract to save a coastal community from being destroyed by a tsunami. 

There really was no threat of a tsunami, but the teams representing Columbia Middle School, Deerfield School in Mountainside, Waldwick, and New Providence Middle School worked hard to prevent one from destroying their miniature prototype home and coastal community.

The competition, "Middle School STEM is Making Waves," was organized by Berkeley Heights District Supervisors Drew Ziobro and James Finley and Tom Clayton [Columbia Middle School 8th grade science teacher].  The task they set out for the competitors was to develop a tsunami prevention system to protect a coastal community. They had to: demonstrate knowledge of the topic; create an action plan outlining their approach to solving the problem, create a series of drawing/schematics; build a working prototype illustrating the solution and develop a "bid" outlining the expected budget for the project.

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Finally, they had to make a presentation addressing environmental concerns related to the project; concerns of the local Chamber of Commerce and those of the local tourism board.

To do this, each team of students received a plastic bin and landform, a plastic 3D printed house for scaling purposes, a collection basin, bucket and water. Each school's teams shared a wave generation system built by the organizers.

With the equipment and instructions on what could and could not be done, the teams worked on the challenge, keeping in mind the various deadlines for submitting documents - from the STEM Connections document to two parts of the Engineering Design Document, including a technical drawing of the prototype, and a cost analysis spreadsheet. Materials to construct the tsunami barrier were available to "purchase" and the costs of the material to make the final prototype had to be taken into account when preparing their bid. 

At 12:45 p.m., team presentations began and the judges, local engineering specialists, evaluated the final prototypes and each team's presentation.

Each of the seven teams were immersed in their work - team members shared responsibilities, one youngster called it a "division of labor," designed to get the most done in the least amount of time.

A lot of laughter mixed with groans, when things went awry. filled the Blue Gym. Coaches oversaw their team's efforts - reminding them of time issues and budgetary considerations. Judges walked around and examined the projects in their various stages and occasionally asked questions.

From time to time a mop was needed to clean up a spill - always a problem when water is a part of any project.

Check out videos to see how some teams solved or failed to solve the tsunami problem and check back to see who won the meet.

The Columbia Middle School PTO supplied the lunch for participants and professional volunteers and the Berkeley Heights Education Foundation funded the challenge supplies.