Students Show Off Technology, Communication and Teamwork Skills at Operation Airlift

by Alicia Alvarez, London Westley, Latifah Wright
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Team Mitchigan, after their win

An amazing win was made by Team Mitchigan, today, Saturday, May 11, 2013,  at the Air Force Academy High School (AFAHS) during Operation Airlift, a yearly competition to design a cost-effective remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for near-space exploration.

Today’s Operation Airlift engineering competition helped students at the Air Force Academy High School, and invited middle school Chicago Quest, to challenge their skills and knowledge about engineering and communication. Students used techniques that they learned in school and at the Adler Planetarium, which is also co-sponsoring the event. The challenge is to build an ROV and test it on a balloon.

“[The point is] to show that engineering and science can be fun,” said Dr. Robert Friedman, the master of ceremonies at the event and educator at the Adler, who also believes, “the most important thing here is teaching everyone how to work in a team.”

Students are in teams, along with Adler mentors and teachers, which compete with each other. At the beginning of the day, there were originally eight teams, consisting of the students, with one teacher and one STEM mentor assigned to each team. Due to some administrative changes, the eight teams were combined into five. These teams consisted of:

  • Team Mitchigan: led by freshman English teacher Ms. Milligan, whose team won Operation Airlift last year, and sophomore chemistry teacher Ms. Mitchell

 “I think we will exceed last year’s results and do it that much better because we’re better and stronger this year. We have more help and more energy. I [was] thrilled to be a part of last year’s group, and I’m excited for what we’re bringing this year.”- Ms. Milligan on whether or not her team will succeed this year

  • Team Scary Unicorns: led by freshman Algebra teacher Mr. Hanson and band teacher Mr. Cook

“[We will] just continue being amazing”- Mr. Cook on what has changed and what has stayed the same with his team since his last year

  • Team Aero-Pollo: led by freshmen physics teacher Mr. Clayton and junior biology teacher Ms. Lowery

“If you have fun in your work, it makes it easier”- Ms. Lowery on her team’s balance between work and fun

  • Team Brocklums: led by freshman reading teacher Ms. Brockway and freshman world studies teacher/senior AP psychology teacher Mr. Woolums

“I’m very excited to be competing in my first Operation Airlift and I certainly hope that I can make this a 1-0 situation instead of a 0-1 situation.”- Mr. Woolums on what he feels like to be in the competition

  • Team Ahmad and the Rockets: led by Chicago Quest middle school science/math teacher Ms. Ahmad

      “It was very exciting and being the only middle school represented in the middle of high school teams gives you a sense of accomplishment.”- Ms. Ahmad on what it was like competing at a different school.

As the teams developed ideas for their ROV, each team had to list all the items they needed on a requisition form. Students had to turn it into the supply store, get it approved and receive a badge by the supply store staff. After this, the team supply manager was in charge of getting all the supplies, making sure that they paid the correct amount of money and, if necessary, revising the requisition form with new materials.

The members of each team put their heads together to think of techniques to use for the ROV. The Brocklums seemed pretty confident in their position in the competition. They didn’t let the pressure of the competition ruin their spirits, telling  jokes and taking Facebook breaks. The adults in the group watched with pride and confidence as well. Team Scary Unicorn, one of the largest groups, brainstormed on ways to lift the air balloon quicker.

The competition was intense! Some of the volunteers were going around spreading rumors that other teams were almost done which made teams work faster towards their goal. All of the teams used Minigroup as a form of translating their progress into the internet.

At one point, Ms. Lowery, the headquarters commander from Aero-Pollo, walked down the quiet hallway. She walked in the Mitchigan Headquarters screaming, “Is this what a losing team smells like?” The team kicked her out, saying, “Why are you cheating Ms. Lowery? Go away.” They loudly closed the door and Ms. Lowery left laughing.

Once the students are done, they have to test their ROVs in the gym area before testing grounds close. Over the intercom, Dr. Friedman in a sarcastic voice announced the end of the testing. All teams rushed to put their finishing touches to their ROVs. The excitement of the event was at its peak, with cheers and laughter erupting in the halls.

As teams went into the situation room to present their ROV, they had posters to present the ROV and the team. Each team presented why their ROV was the best. They explained why the ROV was designed the way it was.

“I wish there could be more visual presentations like ROV designs and the ROV itself,” said Jennifer Bundy, an Adler Educator and presentation judge.

At the end, everyone cheered for each other.

“Everyone did a great job,” Dr. Friedman told audience.

Each team took a team picture and was given a chance to do their team slogan or chants. The Aero-Pollo did the chicken dance as their chant. The chants grew louder and louder as each of the winners were announced. Everyone cheered for team Hancook  for winning third place. Although, some disappointed faces began to form as the the second place winners, Ahmad and the Rockets from Chicago Quest, were announced. But the room was revived with shouting and laughter with the announcement of the first place winners, Team Mitchigan. Tears and sobbing faces didn’t shy away from the opportunity to show their appreciation of the overall victory.

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One thought on “Students Show Off Technology, Communication and Teamwork Skills at Operation Airlift

  1. Pingback: Level 2 Intermission » Far Horizons Project

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