KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Nov. 30, 2017) — The imagination of 16 elementary students in the Grandview School District will soon come to life at Science City. Today, organizers of Kansas City’s favorite K-12 competition for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) named the students of the FOCUS program at the Center for Alternative Instructional Resources (CAIR) the grand prize winner of the Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains. The proposed exhibit, called “The Big Brain Theory,” earns the Grandview FOCUS program a $50,000 grant and the chance to work along STEM professionals at Burns & McDonnell to transform its idea into a $1 million exhibit at Science City.
“Our goal is to not only spark an interest in STEM, but to light a fire for a career in STEM,” says Ray Kowalik, chairman and CEO, Burns & McDonnell. “That’s why winning the competition is just the beginning. Now, the Grandview students get a front-row seat working with our researchers, architects, construction managers and engineers. By the time we open the exhibit, they will understand what it takes to bring their vision to life.”
Grandview’s winning proposal explores STEM from a human health perspective. It dives deep into a very complex topic, the brain, and uncovers how it controls literally everything we do as humans. One part of the brain tests your memory – while another regulates motor movements. The exhibit idea is an engaging discovery of how the brain affects our five key senses: taste, touch, hear, smell and vision.
Burns & McDonnell distributed more than $155,000 in grant money among the top 20 finalist teams. Each of the finalists received at least $2,500, with the top five winners receiving the following grant amounts:
- $10,000 – “Math Mania,” Alexander Doniphan Elementary, Liberty School District
- $15,000 – “City of Lights,” Tonganoxie High School, Tonganoxie School District
- $20,000 – “The Magic of Magnets,” Olathe East High School, Olathe School District
- $25,000 – “Magical Me,” Cordill-Mason Elementary, Blue Springs School District
- $50,000 – “The Big Brain Theory,” CAIR FOCUS Program, Grandview School District
This year, participation in Battle of the Brains grew by nearly 60 percent, reaching record levels:
- 7,000 students
- 400 teachers
- 820 submissions
- 250 schools
- 55 school districts
- 75,000 online votes
Judges, comprised of STEM professionals from Burns & McDonnell and Science City, followed a stringent evaluation process to rank entries according to specific criteria, ranging from creativity and inspiration to how interactive and engaging the exhibit could be with visitors. People cast more than 75,000 votes for their favorite exhibit among the top 20 finalists, which accounted for 30 percent of the final scoring.
“Students, along with their families and teachers, inspire us and are tremendous sources of insight as we continually evolve our award-winning Science City,” says George Guastello, president and CEO, Union Station. “As we survey the world for the most innovative and engaging exhibits, it is our customers who ultimately influence our decisions. That’s why we are extremely proud that four of our most popular hands-on exhibits were directly inspired by children right here in Kansas City as they participated in the transformational Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains competition. Evidence of their inspiration is all around us in Kansas City’s science center, with more to come, as this latest group of students help bring to life their winning concept.”
Burns & McDonnell introduced the Battle of the Brains competition in 2011 to spark greater interest in STEM education. The competition has produced four interactive exhibits at Science City, valued together at more than $3 million: Science of Energy, Genetics: Unlock the Code, Every Last Drop, and Simple Machines at Play. In addition, Burns & McDonnell has invested in two additional exhibits — Science on a Sphere and the Burns & McDonnell Engineerium — to help invigorate interest in STEM topics. Over the last six years, more than 18,000 metro students have participated in the Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains.
“The caliber of ideas coming from students in the Kansas City area is mind-blowing,” says Kowalik, who also studied STEM as a student in the Kansas City area. “These are future engineers, architects, and startup professionals. These kids are innovators today, and I can’t wait to see how they lead our great city — and perhaps our nation — tomorrow.”