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Teen Science: Teams test problem-solving skills at festival’s challenge

HOUGHTON – Teens tested their problem-solving skills against each other during the Keweenaw Science and Engineering Festival’s Teen Science Night Friday.

Participants rotated through a series of stations, where they were given sets of materials and a tight time limit to build something to meet their goal.

One team, Six Straws, was constructing a roller coaster with cardboard switchbacks to divert a ping-pong ball into a bucket on the ground. After several tweaks to the angle of the final ramp, held in place by tape and six straws – hence the name – they were able to get it consistently into the bucket.

“It’s pretty neat – the amount of thinking going into everything, with the roller coasters, and this thing we’re going to be doing,” said Six Straws member Kraig Atkinson of Houghton.

At another station, they had to build a device that could carry a small red ball to the end of a zip-line when blown by a fan. Chris Nottke, a 12th-grader from Atlantic Mine, and Amanda Marcotte, a 10th-grader from Dollar Bay, nailed their task on the first try.

They settled on paper clips instead of string for an attachment to the zip-line to avoid rope-on-rope friction, used large pieces of paper to catch the wind and taped straws to it to prevent crumpling.

They came back this year after participating in last year’s inaugural event.

“It’s just fun to do,” Nottke said. “We get to expand our horizons, and hopefully find a major we’re interested in for college and a career we like.”

The Keweenaw Science and Engineering Festival ended on Saturday. Activities included the Mind Trekkers Expo; presentations by local science, technology, engineering and mathematics groups; MSU Science Theatre; and demonstrations from elementary, middle and high school FIRST Robotics teams.

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