Beaufort High students win state engineering contest

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comMarch 9, 2012 

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Three Beaufort High students brought home a state championship from a recent engineering contest.

The students -- seniors Guy Kemmann and Dustin Mullins and junior Brian Wiggers -- won the Principles of Engineering Division in the Project Lead the Way Engineering Championship on Monday at the University of South Carolina.

The team had a few hours to design and build a machine that could travel along the bannister of a second-story balcony.

The team had $1,000 in play money to spend on materials, which included popsicle sticks, rubber bands, office supplies and some mechanical elements, including wheels, said Beaufort High engineering teacher Doug Plank said.

The students' machine traveled the farthest along the bannister and was the second-cheapest to build, which made them the winners over about 17 other teams, Plank said.

"They were pretty well out ahead" of the other teams, he said. In total, Plank estimated 60 teams competed in the championship's three divisions.

It's the second year Beaufort High students have competed. Last year, a Beaufort High team was runner-up.

"They only had one place to go to improve, and they got it done," Plank said.

The competition is part of Project Lead the Way, a national program that provides pre-engineering curriculum for middle and high schools. The program also is available at H.E. McCracken Middle School and Bluffton and Battery Creek high schools.

A three-person team from Beaufort High also competed in the Introduction to Engineering competition. That team, composed of senior Brandon Graves and sophomores Jonah Miller and Hunter Wallis, took apart a toy train and created the engineering drawings needed to manufacture it by using a computer software program.

Miller said the hardest part was completing the challenge within the time constraints. But his work in Plank's class prepared him well, he said, because he already was familiar with the software program.

The introduction to engineering team did not place but made Plank proud nonetheless.

"If there's any doubt in anybody's mind about what Beaufort kids are capable of and how we stack up against everyone else in the state, they ought to go see this," he said. "Our kids were leaders. They were professional and focused."

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

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