Spirits soar, sink at annual glider competition at Washington University

Two days before the Boeing Engineering Challenge on April 27 at Washington University, the unthinkable befell the Hawk Eye team from Lincoln Middle School in Edwardsville, Illinois.

During a flight practice their wood balsa glider hit the gym floor and shattered. It was broken beyond repair. The team of sixth-graders had 48 hours to build a brand new glider.

“It shattered on Wednesday and we had to rebuild by Friday. This is a completely new design,” said Reigha Romano as she gently showed off the team’s glider.

Students from Lincoln Middle School in Edwardsville, Illinois. They represented two teams, Hawk Eye and Velocity Raptor.

Having learned a lesson the hard way, they even built a spare in case of another accident.

Scattered across the floor and into the bleachers of the Field House, the Hawk Eye team members awaited the final results of the competition, which attracted more than 230 students from 25 schools in the St. Louis region.

The program, now in its 11th year, challenges elementary, middle and high school students to design and construct a glider out of balsa wood with the help of supplies and a mentor provided by The Boeing Company. Students whose gliders have the farthest flight, straightest path, longest hang time and best quality of flight earn medals. Gliders boasting the most creative appearance and engineering also will be recognized.

Heading into the competition, what did team Hawk Eye think of their chances?

“We thought we were going to nail it!” said Kaylah Cooper, her fellow students nodding their heads in agreement.

“We hit pretty close to the line and went really far out, so I think we have a good shot at medaling in the straightest flight path category,” she explained.

Claire Stein (center) of the team Not Your Average Throws poses with her teammates. They’re from Calhoun High School .

In the end, they left the competition empty-handed, but having learned a lot and already looking forward to next year’s competition.

Claire Stein, a junior at Calhoun High School in Hardin, Illinois, proudly displayed the two medals hanging around her neck – one for longest ground distance, and the other for maximum flight aloft. Her team, Not Your Average Throws, came into the contest with a legacy to uphold. The past two years, her school has not only medaled, but taken overall best in Division 1.

Stein believes practice, practice, practice was the pay off for them.

“We did a lot of testing. We’ve been testing our glider for three months everyday trying to nail the maximum distance category,” she said.

Just like the winning teams before them, their glider wings will hang on an honorary wall at their school.

The victors for the day included:

  • Cays Go Wild of St. Charles George Null Elementary won Division 0 overall
  • Fishmongers from St. Mary’s School Edwardsville won Division 1 overall
  • Team 6 Heads from Wentzville Holt High School won Division 2 overall
  • The Guys from Wentzville Holt High School won Division 3 overall

Some 1,300 students have participated in the challenge throughout its history. The Boeing Engineering Challenge is sponsored by Boeing in collaboration with Washington University’s Institute for School Partnership and the McKelvey School of Engineering.

May 03 2019 | by, Myra Lopez