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Brother and sister Katie and David Scholz were asked to build a model bridge that cars could drive over and boats could pass under.

Hoosac Valley Engineering Team Wins STEM Competition

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — Brother and sister Katie and David Scholz teamed up to win the General Dynamics Mission Systems High School STEM Competition.
"These two kids are really smart, and they absolutely do not give up on a challenge once they accept it," teacher and project mentor Philip Koamaya said. "I had a feeling from our first meeting about the competition that they were going to rock it."  
The Scholtzes tied for first place with Taconic High School senior William Garrity, who won first place for the second consecutive year. The students were awarded medals, certificates and Amazon gift cards. 
The competition took place in April and consisted of an engineering challenge involving designing and building mechanical and electrical systems and integrating them by programming computer controls to solve a real-world problem.
David said teams were asked to build a model bridge that cars could drive over and boats could pass under.
"They gave us a problem statement, and we had to try to figure out a solution," he said. "We had a to create a moveable bridge that would allow cars to pass but also boats to pass underneath."
"We had to code and try to get the whole system to basically operate without us typing in commands or anything," Katie added.
Teams from Berkshire County and western New York schools participated in the competition. David said although there were some talented teams, he was confident their project would succeed.
"You could definitely tell that there were teams that knew what they are doing, but there were teams that maybe needed a little more time or assistance," he said. "But in our case, I felt that we knew what we were doing, and we felt confident in our ability to complete the task because they did give us a lot of criteria to follow."
Katie said they were given about a month to prepare for the competition. David said they mostly worked on the weekends and when they had time during the week. 
"We were given some basic materials and we basically started designing a bridge and brainstorming some ideas," David said. "We were trying to figure out what design would work best." 
Katie said as siblings they had the familiarity and trust in each other to split up the effort. They were able to work closely but also independently.
"We were able to work separately and we didn't necessarily have to do everything together," she said.
David took most of the coding duties while Katie focused on design.
Koamaya said he was "blown away" by their final project as well as the extensive testing they underwent to make sure it would work. He added that they persisted even through obstacles noting they lost power at the house the night before the competition when they were applying the finishing touches. 
During the actual competition, teams gave a presentation to judges who then put their projects to the test with different scenarios.
The Scholzs walked away with a certificate and gift card.
Hoosac Valley has participated in the competition in the past, however, the Scholzs were the first to win it.
"We've had some smart, hard-working kids do some pretty good work.  But we've never finished in the top 5, much less won the competition," Koamaya said. "The problems the General Dynamics engineers set are tough, and for most kids, it's a steep learning curve."
Koamaya said in the past he would "get kids up to speed" on the Arduino computer systems as well as help organize the teams. This was not the case with the Scholz siblings.
"With Katie and David, I didn't do any of that. I opened the physics lab to them and got out of their way," he said.
Katie graduates in 2023 and David graduates in 2024. Both have taken classes in the high school's STEM pathway.
David said they plan to enter the competition again.
"I imagine we are going to do it again next year," he said.
Updated on May 16 to recognize that THS senior William Garrity as won first place.

Tags: engineering,   Hoosac Valley,   STEM,   Taconic High,   

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Controlled Burn Scheduled in Cheshire Friday

CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Massachusetts Wildlife Association will be conducting a live wildfire burn of approximately 3 acres of State land on Stafford Hill Friday, April 22.
The Cheshire Fire Department posted on Facebook that the Massachusetts Wildlife Association had informed them of the burn that will take place during the morning and afternoon hours. 
The controlled burn will be to burn off some of the underbrush to make way for new grasses and shrubs. This is a yearly occurrence.
Mass Wildlife and fire crews from the State will be on hand throughout the entire day to keep the fire under control. 
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