Baltimore, Md

The Chicago State University PCI (Pre-College Initiative) NSBE Jr. Chapter, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational initiative for middle school and high school students, is the proud home of this year’s Ten80 National STEM League overall grand champions at the high school level.

Held in May at Barbers Hill High School in Baytown, Texas, the Ten80 National STEM League Finals involved students’ participation in a number of team-based “challenges.” In the Student Racing Challenge, students competed against other teams from across the country in races using electric radio-controlled cars. The finals are the culmination of a yearlong program in which students work together in much the same manner that professional race car teams operate in the run-up to a race. The students are judged for their work in numerous categories: project management, race engineering, aerodynamic design, alternative energy, creative engineering and graphic design.

Fresh off of its win at the Ten80 competition at NSBE’s 41st Annual Convention in Anaheim, Calif., in March, Chicago State’s high school Ten80 team — “Team B.E.A.S.T” — took the Overall Grand Championship at the Houston-area Ten80 nationwide event and also took first place for their vehicle in the “data-driven design” category. The middle school team from Chicago State NSBE Jr. — “Team In10sity” — was proclaimed national grand champion in the middle school points race, second-place winner overall in the middle school finals and first-place winner for its car’s data-driven design.

“The team put in countless hours to complete the challenges…. The project took a lot of programming and lots of trial and error,” says Sidney Williams, 15, of Team B.E.A.S.T, a student at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago. “It was frustrating to some of the members of the team. However, I loved the challenge.”

Despite the challenges of the project, Ten80 motivated all entrants to strive for perfection.

“Many people think that the competition is too difficult for the students,” says Marnie Boyd, assistant director of engineering studies at Chicago State University and advisor of the NSBE Jr. chapter. “However, I’m so thankful for people like Terri (Stripling), Ten80 president and chief executive officer, and her staff for believing in the students and challenging them.”

“Students need to practice math and science on their way to STEM careers or to any career for that matter, just as children practice baseball or basketball on their way to Major League Baseball or the NBA,” says Ten80 Chief Development Officer Beverly Simmons. “Even if motorsports isn’t interesting to them, the prospect of driving and learning how things work is. We’ve drawn on this inherent motivation to foster an interest in STEM.”

For her part, Stripling says: “Team B.E.A.S.T is an exemplary team and one that we are happy to see win. In competitive academics, there are programs (chapters, schools or clubs) that are 100 percent about supporting the students on one end of the spectrum, and there are programs that are about the adults as much as the students.

“The NSBE chapters, and CSU in particular, showcase the best in that range of possibilities,” she adds. “That is what Ten80 wants to see and what our team rewards.”