Foxcroft School’s team, “Simple Machines,” simply dominated the competition Saturday, winning four of five events to collect the High School Division title at the fifth annual K2M Summit: The STEM Challenge, took place on the Foxcroft campus. A team from St. Patrick’s Episcopal School in Washington, DC, took the Middle School Division championship.
An unusual mix of students from each grade, the Simple Machines featured three Purcellville residents — senior Patia Fann, junior Sophie Horn and freshman Alex Greenburger – and sophomore Pradyuta Padmanabhan of Chantilly. Using logic and deductive reasoning along with event-specific skills, the group solved chemistry, coding, physics and math challenges to give Foxcroft its second title in three years and take home a striking team trophy, designed and built on Foxcroft’s 3D printer by another student.
“We worked really well together,” said Pradyuta, who recently transferred to Foxcroft from Thomas Jefferson High School. “Everyone contributed and we had a lot of fun.”
Fun is very much the point of the unique, girls-only competition. Working in teams of three or four, girls tested “urine” samples, analyzed a mysterious white powder, decoded messages, launched slingshots and more. They did brainteasers, earned pieces of a complicated puzzle and assembled it, and put together clues discovered through the various events to identify the real spy in an overarching story of intrique and espionage.
In the 20-team High School competition, Georgetown Visitation’s “Light Speed” team and “Impulse Control” from the Academy of Science placed second and third overall, respectively, while Randolph Macon Academy’s “Schroedinger Cats” team won the fifth event, a biology challenge.
In the afternoon, when 24 middle school teams from 15 schools competed, St. Patrick’s “Impulse Control” won two events en route to the title. Blue Ridge Middle School’s Doppler Effect Team was second, followed by the QT Pis of the Grymes School (Orange, VA). Teams from Norwood School (Bethesda, MD), Immanuel Christian (Springfield) and Chesapeake Academy (Irvington, VA) also won individual events.
In addition, a slew of students won cool prizes thanks to a combination of brains and luck. The girls answered brainteasers and math questions, identified the mysterious spy, or put the puzzle together to be entered in drawings for such items as Beats headphones, Amazon gift cards, earrings and a small drone.
In truth, each of the 175 girls from 21 schools that participated in the STEM Challenge was a winner for workout they gave their brains, the fun they had with their teammates and the confidence they gained in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields so often reserved for boys.
“This is a tremendous event,” said Robin Blake a teacher at Chesapeake Academy in Irvington, VA – a good three hours’ drive. “Next year I want to bring two teams!”
The named sponsor, K2M, Inc., runs one of the events each year and brings a team of female engineers who have bucked that tradition to share their experiences and answer questions — an inspirational experience for the young competitors.
Based in Leesburg, K2M company specializes in medical solutions for spinal disorders.