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Belton ISD engineering students compete in Chevron Design Challenge

With an innovative idea, a hydraulic baby mattress for combatting Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow engineering student Jackson Small helped create the winning project at the Chevron Design Challenge.

The competition, hosted by Texas A&M University and sponsored by Chevron on May 17–18, was developed for students to receive firsthand experience learning from real engineers from Texas A&M and Chevron in order to develop innovative design solutions to real world problems that people face today.

Students self-selected teams, typically comprised of different schools, were presented with a needs statement and were tasked with working through the engineering design process to discover a solution, produce a mock-up and pitch their design to a panel of judges.

Teams used the fabrication resources provided by TAMU’s engineering design center to create prototypes of their designs.

“I think it helped them gain valuable experience in collaborative problem-solving and cement their prospects in becoming future engineers,” said Belton High School engineering teacher Pietro Giustino, who sponsors the robotics team and travelled with the students to College Station.

Belton High School students Ashley Perrier, Ryan Carpio-Brown, and Joshua Bledsoe were joined by New Tech students Christian Rogers and Jackson Small in the competition, which is exclusively for Project Lead The Way (PLTW) high schools. Career and Technical Education Director Stephanie Ferguson said Belton Independent School District is excited about our engineering students' efforts. “This is the second year our engineering students have participated in a (for Project Lead The Way) design challenge, and this year’s competition was restructured to emulate the ‘Aggies Invent’ event that TAMU holds for their college students every year,” Ferguson said. “I’m incredibly proud of the team Mr. Giustino assembled and how well they performed at an event that is designed to mirror best practices for a true engineering team.”

Chevron Design Challenge

Project Lead the Way is a non-profit organization that provides STEM curriculum and training that BHS uses for its engineering and computer science career and technical education pathways.

“I was elated to see that our students could stand out among so many other PLTW engineering students across Texas,” Giustino said. “More important to me was hearing from our students about how fun, challenging, and worthwhile the competition was.”

“It was fantastic to win first place in that final round after all of our hard work,” Jackson Small said about his group’s design of a mattress that could sense a baby's vital signs and correct their sleeping position to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

“It was great to get to know a group of people my age with the same interests as me coming from all different kinds of backgrounds. Most importantly though, it was great to learn that I loved the experience and that I made the right choice in what I'm pursuing as a future career,” Small said.

Along with Small’s grand final win, Perrier’s team received a 3rd place award, while Rogers’ team took home a 1st place award for their design of a smart pill dispenser to aid the elderly who have trouble taking multiple medications consistently. Each student in the two winning teams won $150 Amazon gift cards, and the grand winners also received commemorative trophies.

This is the third PLTW design challenge that Belton ISD has participated in, and Giustino says he’ll continuing encouraging his students to participate.

Joshua Wucher
June 4, 2019