SPRINGFIELD, NJ - Having already participated in several Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) competitions, Jonathan Dayton took a major step forward when they hosted their first competition earlier this week.
The competition was held in the east gym of the high school and pitted two teams from four schools against each other. Along with host Dayton, New Providence High School, Governor Livingston High School and Northern Highlands High School all participated.
The hypothetical scenario awaiting all the teams stemmed from a common problem in the world of sports; concussions. In the scenario, the teams had been contracted by the National Football League, with the goal of each team being to design a more effective prototype of a helmet that could cut down on traumatic brain injuries.
Additionally, teams could only use the two cardboard boxes provided at each work station, along with one roll of tape and a glue gun.
For David Silva, a physics and engineering teacher at Jonathan Dayton who also works as a STEM coach, the competition was one-of-a-kind, for both him and the students.
"It's honestly an incredible and unique experience," Silva said. "And I'm very grateful we can be a part of it. We've been in this interscholastic STEM competition program now for a couple years. We've had the privilege to go to other schools and they've hosted us, and we've done really cool challenges."
During the event, teams also had the opportunity to test their creations at a monitoring station. Taking the data gleaned from force experiments at the station, the teams were able to refine their creations and get set for final judging.
Throughout the course of the competition, judges circulated and looked at the work the teams had done. One of those judges was Christos Diamantidis. Remarking on the work the high schoolers were putting in he said that it was good preparation for their future endeavors.
"When kids at a young age are involved in this type of engineering [with] the design, the drawing, the problem solving, it boosts their intelligence," Diamantidis said. "It makes them future leaders and future innovators for the rest of the world. It's exciting to see so many kids during a school day, working on such a unique problem that we have today."
At the end of the afternoon, the winners were announced. New Providence High School took home first and third place, with Jonathan Dayton snagging second place. Two presentation awards were also given to the teams from Northern Highlands.
While Dayton did not take home top honors, Silva was still happy to have given his students the opportunity to gain STEM experience first-hand.
"To have a unique, competitive environment where kids can engage in science and engineering, it's incredible," Silva added. "Sports are awesome, but this is like that sporting feeling, but with science. And as a science teacher, I can't ask for more than that."