Students compete for exhibit design to be implemented at Science City


By Daniel Davidson, Online Editor-in-Chief

Four students have advanced to the top 20 in the Battle of the Brains competition with an idea for an interactive science exhibit called Abili-Tech.

On the line is a million dollar full-scale implementation of their project design in Science City, an interactive-exhibit museum in Kansas City, Missouri, and a $50,000 STEM grant for the winning team’s school.

The engineering company Burns & McDonnell holds the Battle of the Brains competition every two years to take K-12 students’ ideas and transform them into reality.

The team of Clara Bode, Asha Hanson, Judith Hogan and Joseph Bash collaborated over the span of a month to research and design Abili-Tech, a project focused on assisted technology. The exhibit allows individuals to experience using wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, canes and exoskeletons as they attempt everyday tasks such as setting a table or simply moving around.

Gifted facilitator Emily Beecham advised the students as they created a commercial, an official plan proposal and design plans for their project. This also included researching the costs of implementing their idea.

Their proposal, along with 850 other team’s, was judged by Burns & McDonnell engineers and advanced to the top twenty. Out of those top twenty, several groups can win grants for their schools but only the first place winner will see their project implemented by Burns & McDonnell. Announced on Dec. 4, final judgements are based upon a combination of official judging and public votes.

Bode, who originally conceived the idea for Abili-Tech, believes that their proposal could help children better understand disability.

“It would be really good to see the representation of people for what it’s like,” Bode said. “I thought maybe showing people what it’s like to just do normal tasks while having different disabilities that make that harder would be very interesting.”

One requirement for the project was that it be interactive and kid-friendly.

“I have been to a lot of science museums, and I have never seen anything like their idea,” Beecham said. “Because I have little kids, I know that the parts of the museum that they go to that just have things to read aren’t that fun for them.”

For Bode, who forsees herself pursuing a career in a STEM field, Battle of the Brains offered an opportunity to experiment with engineering and team-collaboration.

“I like the innovation, I like the creation and I just thought it sounded fun,” Bode said.

Beecham believes the competition is an opportunity for hands-on learning and wants to have her students participate in Battle of the Brains in the future.

“It’s something these kids can say ‘Hey, I had a part of this’,” Beecham said. “They can have something to show for it by going to Science City and everybody else can actually experience their idea.”

Voting for the top 20 teams ends today and can be done at this link.