2018 GRAND CHAMPIONS – Iditarod Motorsports (William Amos Hough High School)
On the banks of Lake Norman, just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, you’ll find William Amos Hough High School – home of Iditarod Motorsports. Just like the small-town feel of their hometown Cornelius, the Iditarod Motorsports team is a tight-knit group of students, and more importantly, friends.
Students graduating from Bailey Middle School didn’t want to leave the fun of competing in the Ten80 National STEM League (NSL) behind. They were determined to spread their middle school experiences and love of STEM to the high school level. Passing the reins to their peers on Horsepower Motorsports, they ventured off to William Amos Hough High School with a plan.
With the support of Brock Shipley, CTE Technology Education teacher, the students established a Student Racing club at the high school – and thus Iditarod Motorsports was born. Shipley was elated to help them create a place for students passionate about STEM to put their knowledge and skills to the test. Now in its fourth year, students meet twice a week; once during the school day for a 45-minute enrichment period and once afterschool for 1-hour.
Sophomore Amina Moudarrir shares, “The Iditarod team has become family to me. Everyone is so supportive of one another and we have all put in so much time and effort to make our team the best it can be. This team means the world to me and I can’t wait to watch it continue to grow through the years.” Similarly, junior Zach Groseclose says, “Being a part of the Iditarod STEM team has provided me with new friendships and fueled my passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
Since its inception, the STEM club has given students, especially those without access to other activities such as sports or music, a place to come together and have fun applying classroom lessons to project-based modules to help them discover their potential for engineering. “I feel that this is a worthwhile experience,” shared sophomore Sebastian Alberdi. “For me, I’d say that STEM has been a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people I otherwise never would have gotten to know.” Junior Ben Ziegler shares this same sentiment and further elaborates, “I get to apply what I learn in my math, physics, and engineering classes to a real-world challenge.”
Throughout the year, students break into small teams of 2 to 3 people to complete each project. Once a group has completed a project, they assist others to help everyone finish on time. “The most challenging aspect of Ten80 is having the students set project checkpoints to make sure they meet all deadlines in time,” shared Shipley. But, under his positive leadership, these students learn the value of teamwork and develop strong communication and collaboration skills while successfully navigating project planning and management.
“I have never seen such a comradery and yearning for teamwork in any other club,” said Senior Maya Stolle. “The Ten80 STEM curriculum has truly changed my life for the better and I’m happy, as a graduating senior and current president of Iditarod, to say that I will carry the skills I have acquired from this team with me throughout all my endeavors.” Elated to learn from the activities presented by Ten80, freshman Joey Parker expressed, “This team has really helped me learn more about engineer, computer programming, and marketing. I will never forget STEM and plan to keep doing it.”
Three years later, the club is stronger than ever. Iditarod Motorsports has grown to include more than 20 students, both male and female from each grade level, which make up 1 Racing Challenge team and 1 Rover Challenge team. Students competing on Iditarod Racing own a motorsports team and their ultimate goal is to engineer performance of a 1:10 scale electric radio-controlled (RC) car. Students participating on the Iditarod Rover team use open source software and hardware to optimize code and design a Rover robot to autonomously navigate courses paralleling real life operations in remote areas of land, sea, and space.
Long-time student participants were more than eager to reflect and share the plenty of opportunities they get to engage in hands on learning and develop strong skills. “I’ve been a part of a STEM team for five years now and every year has been amazing. I’ve learned so much and it has developed my passion for STEM into a reality,” said sophomore Juan David Loreto. Also reflecting on his experience, sophomore Matt Gimbel shared “Being a part of the Ten80 program team for 5 years has given me unique sets of challenges and friendships. This has made the Ten80 program so amazing for me.”
Learning to work collaboratively as a team is one of the greatest long-term benefits of Ten80. During the 2017-18 academic year, STEM students at William Amos Hough High School practiced driving and repairing their racecars, coded an autonomous rover and robocar, engaged in data driven design to improve both vehicles, dabbled in clean energy and aerodynamic projects while continuing to build their team brand through logo development, creating marketing materials and community outreach. Integrating collaboration and competition into their STEM program, Iditarod Motorsports competed and won the regional NSL competition held near Columbia, South Carolina. Having won an invitation to the NSL Finals, the team traveled to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York in April.
The weekend of April 28-29, 2017, students found the Alumni Sports and Recreation Center at RPI, better known as the Armory, abuzz with STEM activity. During the two-day NSL Finals competition, students apply math and science knowledge in practical, creative ways. Iditarod Motorsports found themselves competing against dozens of teams and hundreds of students from across the country and three teams from China. After a hard-fought battle, Iditarod Motorsports sprung up victorious taking home first place in Racing, second place in both Rover and Graphic Design, and the crème de la crème, 2018 Grand Champion crown.
The NSL competitions allow members of Iditarod Motorsports to showcase their work which is an important part of the process. For Shipley, seeing the students work together and witnessing the culmination of their hard work at the competitions is most rewarding. Motivated by her own accomplishments and basking in the reflected glow of team success, sophomore Emily Ramanata shared, “I have been part of a STEM team for five years and each competition is a new and exciting challenge. The integration of different projects and teams into the STEM family has taught me collaboration, diligence, and inquisitive thinking. STEM has changed my life and prepared me for a better future.”
These students go the distance bridging engineering design and computer science with business modeling and real-world applications. “Ten80 has provided a haven for students that are interested in STEM classes or careers to come together and work through project-based activities that are challenging,” said coach Shipley. Helping these aspiring engineers cultivate a solid foundation in good engineering design and practice, Shipley added, “By the end of the challenge, the students have completed a very rewarding experience that they can tell all of their friends and relatives about for years to come.”