Latrobe Students Claim Second Place in Chain Reaction Contest

Alyssa Daniele, Staff Writer

Upon winning third place last year at the Carnegie Science Center Chain Reaction Contraption Contest, the Greater Latrobe High School team returns again claiming second place this year at competition.

A chain reaction contraption is a simple machine that is built in a very complicated way using approximately 20 steps to accomplish a task. Instead of relying on electricity, the machine is powered by gravity and potential energy.

This years team of ten people have been working for months on creating a chain reaction contraption that will transport an object. This year’s machine transports a rabbit out one side of the machine, back in then is rotated around to the other side and pops back out that side. The contraption does all this and more without using electricity.

Heidi Thorne, is a senior who has competed for three years. “There is a lot of teamwork and building involved. As well as taking things apart, and reconstructing them to perfect the contraption. If one thing does not work the whole contraption does not work,” said Thorne.

This team spends hours brainstorming ideas and constructing a plan. They spend even more hours building the contraption to perfection. The contraption is tested over and over again to ensure everything runs smoothly. When everything is in place they paint and decorate the machine to prepare for competition. This team spent approximately 285 man hours total on the project.

At the competition the judges look for the mechanics of the machine, the five minute presentation that is given by one of the team members, as well as how the contraption looks. “While the judges like the contraption to look junky and made of nicknacks,” said Thorne, “we usually make ours look classy.”

Mr. Aaron Richter, organizer for the team, said, “Students learn basic physical science and engineering principles, they learn to work as a team, meet deadlines, and submit timely progress reports to judges.”

Teamwork is a very important part of creating a chain reaction contraption. “It may sound cheesy but the team is like a machine as well,” Michael Clevenger, junior, “Everyone needs to do their part or it’s not going to work. Based on what happened at the competition, we worked as well if not better than our own machine.”

When the whole team is dedicated to working together to accomplish a common goal the results will be phenomenal. Working with a small group of people, the experience of constructing a chain reaction contraption is fun, and creates a positive group environment while making new friends and close bonds. Coby Green, a senior who has competed for two years said, “Through hardships we all work together to solve problems and come to solutions.”

Taking the things they have learned from this experience the students look towards a career in engineering. Thorne wants to study Management Engineering in college. Working on the chain reaction contraptions has given the students knowledge in engineering, and the skills for working with power tools in workshops.

Mr. Tom Irwin, engineering mentor to the team, has worked with the Greater Latrobe chain reaction contraption team for over ten years. He has been a big part in helping the team with supplies, the construction of the machine, as well as a work place.

Working on these machines takes a lot of time, hard work, responsibility, teamwork and most of all dedication. Making these machines may seem impossible, but as Mr. Irwin said, “The impossible just takes a little longer.”