FACTORYVILLE — For the second consecutive year, a group of students from the Lackawanna Trail Elementary Center have been recognized as best in the state.
Sixth-graders Joe Shaw, Braden Savage, Ethan Lee and Matthew Rakauskas placed first in the 2017 K’NEX State Competition May 19 at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology for their creation of a eco-friendly roller coaster. They defeated 23 other teams in the sixth-eighth grade division.
“There weren’t too many other people doing roller coasters, so we thought it would be unique,” Lee said.
The students received a $250 gift certificate from K’Nex and a $500 gift certificate from ThermoFisher Scientific to purchase new equipment for the school.
Also, they each received a K’Nex kit, certificate and trophy.
Last year, another group of sixth-grade students from Lackawanna Trail — Emma Oswald, Faith Dewey, Katie Carpenter and Maggie Martin — took top honors.
Coach Gail Franko, a sixth-grade teacher at the school, believes the students push each other to construct high-quality work.
“We’ve had an in-house competition for four years and that’s made a huge difference in the quality of projects that make it to the regional level,” she said.
According to Franko, the students learn teamwork, creativity, research and problem-solving skills through the program.
“They find the answers by themselves,” she said. “The coaches are there for support and to give them a few ideas, but they go out and do the work themselves.”
The boys, who also placed first in the school’s in-house competition and regional competition, estimate they spent more than 150 hours working on the project.
“Each time they took first in a competition, they went above and beyond to do more research and develop their project,” Franko said.
The STEM design challenge was to create an eco-friendly amusement park ride, with a 1400-piece limit, and present a budget for the project.
Shaw served as the coaster engineer, Rakauskas was the biodiesel engineer, Savage served as park manger and Lee was the farmer.
“Our ride ran on biodiesel,” Lee said. “We used the oil from soybeans.”
Their backup system utilized cooking oil from restaurants in the community.
Rakauskas was tasked with turning the soybeans into fuel and refining the product.
Savage discussed ways the park was able to be energy efficient.
“We used cogeneration, the turning of heat into energy,” he said. “We also used the excess energy for the lights.”
Shaw added the group used recycled steel and wood to build the rides.