News | May 07, 2015


300 high school students put STEM skills to work

2 - minute read
Students launch tennis balls on the lawn using catapults they designed and made with PVC tubing, rubber bands, duct tape and plastic cups.

About 300 students from 13 area high schools participated May 6 in the finale of STEM@Work, a fun learning event coordinated by FGCU’s Whitaker Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education, the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools and The School District of Lee County.

In addition to giving a presentation on what they learned during this yearlong program, students competed in a contest to design and build catapults using only duct tape, PVC tubing, rubber bands and a plastic cup. They used the catapults to launch tennis balls on the Great Lawn and were judged for distance and hang time.

The exercise involved critical thinking, problem solving, team building and STEM skills.

“They have to think about storing potential energy and transforming it into kinetic energy,” said Whitaker Center Director Laura Frost. “They have to consider tension and other forces you have to deal with.”

Joshua Porter, a Cape Coral High School junior who hopes to attend FGCU and study software engineering, was so intent on optimizing his team’s catapult that he barely stopped to scarf down a sandwich at lunchtime. His team’s name: Physics Fanatics.

“We’re learning a lot about team building and engineering and design principles,” he said.

The school with the winning presentation was awarded five Kindle Fire 6 tablets for their school, as well as one for each of the presenting students; second-place winners received five Kindle Fire 6 tablets for their school. The funding for these tablets was provided by an AT&T grant. Various materials were donated by B&I Contractors.

Presentation winners:

1st Place – Island Coast High School – Janelle Flecha, Kayla Davidson, Valeria Zavala

2nd Place – Riverdale High School – Morgan Baldwin, Rachel Bebbel, Macey Keel, Sarah Kelley, Kiara Nieves

Catapult winners:

Distance: Team #2 – Benjamin Casey – Estero High

Samuel Gomez – East Lee County High

Ryne Hensley – Estero High

Juan Herrera – Cypress Lake High

Stacey Mageropoulus – Riverdale High

Gustavo Teixeira – Riverdale High

Chandler Tew – Ida S. Baker High

Skyler Watkins – Cypress Lake High

Hang Time: Team #21 – Crewe Burke – Cypress Lake High

Othnie Damas – Island Coast

Sekou LaRoche – Cape Coral High

Nate Fleshe – Fort Myers High

Other partners of the STEM@Work program include: AECOM, Arthrex, Manhattan Kraft Construction Inc., Cement Industries, Covanta Energy, Shaw Development, Mark Loren Designs, Edison-Ford Winter Estates, EnSite, Radiology Regional, Rasmussen College, Waterman Broadcasting, Southwest Airlines, Lee County Port Authority, HSA Engineers and Scientists and Florida SouthWestern State College.

For more information about FGCU’s Whitaker Center for STEM Education, go to

Subscribe to 360
Stay in the Loop
The FGCU360 email newsletter delivers the latest scoop twice a month.