NEWS BRIEF: FSHS Success in Battle of the Brains

FSHS places second at Science City on Jan. 23
Wearing their medals and holding their trophy, FSHS students after their success at Battle of the Brains.
Wearing their medals and holding their trophy, FSHS students after their success at Battle of the Brains.
Collected by Jeff Morrison

After months of preparation, a group of students set their sights on a Science City exhibit for competition at Battle of the Brains on Jan. 23. The students won second place, earning $25,000 for the school.

The competition, hosted by Burns & McDonnell, is a K–12 STEM competition that encourages teamwork, collaboration and executive functioning skills with a real-world challenge, according to their website.

With the support of gifted education teacher Jeff Morrison, their entry “Nature’s Blueprint: A World of Animal Architects” came to life. According to freshman Ben Jackson, the exhibit focused on the design of structures created in the natural world and the science and logic behind them.

The entry entailed a cover letter, interactive exhibit engagement, exhibit floor plan, constructability statement, construction materials estimate, commercial, billboard and a team choice video. The first-place team’s exhibit will come to life in Science City and they received a check for $50,000.

Burns & McDonnell employees and Science City staff evaluate each team’s proposal based on the competition rubric. Only 10 entries from each division are elevated to the top 20, and the top five entries are revealed at the awards ceremony.

Free State’s group is made up of 14 students: junior Adele Buren, junior Niko Eidemiller, freshman Harper Finck, freshman Isla Gnojek, sophomore Chloe Hannings, senior Zach Hansen-Terry, senior Ethan Hart, freshman Emmett Henry, sophomore Brendan Hethcoat, freshman Ben Jackson, junior Connor MacFarland, junior Hope Northrop, junior Gillian Sellet and freshman Sejun Yun.

FSHS students stand for a photo at the Battle of the Brains competition. (Collected by Jeff Morrison )

More than 740 entries were submitted from the Kansas City area. On the day of the award ceremony, rows of chairs filled with finalists at Union Station. When the school’s name was called, team members filled with excitement.

“It was exciting, and I think a lot of us didn’t even expect to make it that far. We were all a little shocked at first, but it was a lot of fun to kind of celebrate ourselves throughout the rest of our day at Science City,” junior Adele Buren said.

With the success, Morrison said they have started dreaming about how the money will be spent, but no final decisions will be made until later this semester.

“Burns & McDonnell will consult with us on purchasing items to support STEM education at Free State. As a former music educator, I hope to push that a bit to include the arts as well,” Morrison said.

All of the exhibit’s work was done during Morrison’s classes, and students were encouraged to participate as a part of the class. For many, it provided an opportunity to collaborate with others and share ideas.

“Being 100% honest, I joined it so Mr. Morrison would lessen the amount of work I had to do for a project. I initially didn’t think it would be too interesting for me, but I actually had a lot of faith in our idea as we worked more on it, and it became something I’m really proud to have worked on, especially with all of our excellent teammates,” Buren said.

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