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Tech Challenge: Students compete, present projects

Bemidji High School students Kris Maggert, left, and Jared Vanasse mark out a stringer for a set of stairs during Tech Challenge 2009 Thursday in Bemidji State University's John Glas Fieldhouse. Working in the background are BHS students Matt Grundy, left, and Jake Tildin. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Studying a set of directions over a 2-by-12 board, local high school students Mike Masten and Junior Headbird had 75 minutes to cut a stair stringer.

The Cass Lake-Bena High School juniors were competing in the carpenter's challenge at Tech Challenge 2009 Thursday at Bemidji State University.

"It's going to be a little difficult," Masten said.

Tech Challenge featured student competition, exhibits and demonstrations, as well as tours of the facilities at BSU's Department of Technological Studies and an expo featuring industry and post-secondary education booths.

The event drew more than 300 students in grades 6-12 from across Minnesota. It was sponsored by the 360 Degrees Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence, which is based at BSU.

Tech Challenge is an opportunity for students in technology education classes to show off the projects they've been working on and compete against other schools in engineering and technical challenges, said 360 Degrees Assistant Director Tony Hommes.

Students started the day with a written technology knowledge bowl and then took part in competitions and challenges.

In one Tech Challenge activity, seniors Abdul Yusef, Ying Yang and Lao Fang worked as a team to a build a tower from marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti. The students attend three different high schools in the St. Paul School District.

"We're all building towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows to see who can get the highest tower," said Yang, as his team and others carefully constructed their towers.

Some of the challenges of the activity, he said, were that the uncooked spaghetti varied in length and was very fragile.

Also at Tech Challenge, students from Blackduck High School showcased their cabinets project for the school's building trades house. Students from the school build one house per year.

"We built all the cabinets and trim and everything," senior Steven Swedberg said.

Eighth-graders Alicia Peterson, Nicole Paulson, Levi Olson and Jordan Murphy of Fosston High School competed as a team in the automation challenge. They had to design a system that would mark a boat traffic channel using blinking lights.

They also brought their small carbon dioxide cars to race at Tech Challenge.

Although it was Paulson's first time at Tech Challenge, her brother had been there previously and won trophies.

On Thursday, she said, she hoped to follow in his footsteps.