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OFA team wins Clarkson coaster competition


POTSDAM — Goldfish, starfish, jellyfish, seashells and seaweed set the theme for the first place roller coaster model at Clarkson University’s 7th annual Roller Coaster Competition through their Integrated Math and Physics for Entry To Undergraduate STEM Program.

The entire room applauded at the announcement that eighth and ninth graders Katelin L. Gardener, her sister Chelsea M., Courtney M. Loffler and Shawn P. Rubin would take the trophy back to Ogdensburg Free Academy for the second year in a row.

The team said each member picked two themes, but they ultimately decided to go with “Under the Sea.”

Using paper cutouts of fish, fake plants and seashells they decorated their coaster design, which they constructed with Styrofoam tubes.

“We really put our effort into it and that’s really all that matters,” Katelin said.

The competition is the finale event of Clarkson’s year-long IMPETUS Program, which consists of several math and science projects and learning opportunities for high school students throughout the year. Michael W. Ramsdell, Clarkson assistant professor of physics and co-coordinator of the competition, said the students start working on their roller coaster design projects in September.

“With a program like this, the students get to do a design, see what other groups come up with and get immediate feedback,” he said.

The models all had different themes and many were constructed out of recycled materials like Styrofoam, paper towel tubes and other cardboard items. They each used a marble as their model’s vehicle.

Mr. Ramsdell said the roller coasters were judged on longest time, loops, support structure and track openness. This year, the competition had the largest participation with 11 districts represented and 18 different models.

“We think roller coasters are a nice way to get students interested in math and science,” said Katie R. Fowler, director of Clarkson’s STEP program. “It’s critical that we have these programs especially in Northern New York where we’re very rural and isolated. In our area there are a lot of potential first-generation college students, so we think having them come here to work with our students, some of whom are local, gives them the idea that this is something they can do.”

Mary Margaret M. Small, program director for Clarkson’s Office of Educational Partnerships , also helped coordinate the event.

“This gives students the opportunity to apply the knowledge they learn in class,” she said.

Nine students for Gouverneur Central build a red, white and blue coaster design called “The Skyway.” It featured a white picket fence and gingerbread men.

Coach Bonnie M. Bates, a teacher’s aide at Gouverneur Central, said the students picked a theme that shows support for a friend of theirs who died in January.

Ms. Bates said Skyler Way graduated from Gouvernuer Central in 2012 and joined the military but was killed in a car accident in Lake Lejeune, North Carolina, where he was stationed.

“We lost a student who was really close with us, so we did the red white and blue because he was a marine,” eighth grader Morgan J. Prashaw said.

A team from Colton-Pierrepont Central won second place for a Batman-themed design and a team from Hermon-DeKalb won third place for an Alice in Wonderland theme.

Clarkson University holds 7th annual Roller Coaster Competition
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