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Deer Creek Middle's STEM students compete in nationals in Washington

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By Lauren Gaddie-Johnson
For the Courier

For the seventh year in a row, Deer Creek Middle School’s STEM students went to the Future City National Competition in Washington, D.C.

The 11-member Science, Technology, Engineering and Math team won first place in the Great Plains Regional on Jan. 26 in Manhattan, Kan., and went to D.C. over Presidents Day Weekend to compete against the winners of 36 other regions. At the Washington competition, the Deer Creek STEM team won a special award for Best Fire Protection Plan.

Jacquie Adkins, the STEM class teacher at Deer Creek, was bowled over that her team won regionals, because the team competed in the Great Plains Region this year.

“I was so surprised,” Adkins said. “I never, ever take a competition for granted. I really had no expectations about the degree of competition. When I got our preliminary standings and we were ranked one, three and eight (out of 62 teams), I was so excited.”

Not only do the teams have to give a seven-minute presentation of their futuristic city, but they also have to complete a virtual simulation of a working city called “Sim City.” In addition, they build an intricate model with moving parts and write two papers — a research essay that explains how city planners are treating wastewater and runoff problems, and a narrative that explains the intricacies of the city, such as its age, population and recreational activities.  

“I started out as a builder, and we learned how to backward plan,” explained Logan Quirk. “We had to get all of our buildings done first and our moving parts. You get that out of the way and then go back later and touch up the buildings by repainting and adding greenery. You do the fine details last.”

The winning team’s city is named Manh Me Re, which means “strong roots” in Vietnamese. The team members are: Allie Goulding, Andrew Mangold, Logan Quirk, Ian Goulding, Lauren Cherrey, Kira Woods, Sophie Stone, Ellie Bohan, Dilan Castaneda, Carter Jones, and Eric Grieshaber.

All team members received a $1,000 scholarship for each year they attend Kansas State University if they enroll in an engineering program. Allie Goulding, Mangold, and Quirk are the three presenters who earned a free trip to the national competition. The other members were team builders, writers and creators.

“STEM has really opened my eyes to opportunities in the engineering field and how women engineers are more integrated in that field now,” said Allie Goulding, an eighth-grader. “It’s just helped me personally see what I can do when I grow up.”

Adkins’ teams have won regionals for seven straight years, and this year was no exception in the special award category too. Besides winning the top spot and advancing to nationals, two other teams won for Best Written Communication and Best Sustainable Transportation.