Funkstown students capture sweet victory

March 02, 1997


Staff Writer

FUNKSTOWN - Imagination and hard work paid off for a team of Funkstown Elementary School fourth-graders, who captured a sweet victory in a statewide competition with their theme park ride based on the book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

"It was worth it," said team member Christine Brooks, 10. "I thought of it as winning for our school."

The students' project took second place for their division in this year's Baltimore Museum of Industry Engineering Challenge, said teacher Marisa Hoyle.

The team competed against about 15 other groups of fourth-graders from throughout the state, Hoyle said.

The six fourth-grade students started work on the project Oct. 1.

Their challenge: to design an original theme park ride - capable of carrying at least four passengers - based on a storybook they had read, Hoyle said.


Students had to build a working model that would fit on a 24-by-24-inch base and didn't require hand power to operate, she said.

They also had to keep a detailed notebook of their progress, including meeting records, design sketches, story summaries, correspondence with people who donated project materials, expertise and realistic cost estimates, Hoyle said.

Grownups John James and Marvin Meyn offered engineering advice on the ride's structure and motor design, she said. But it was the students who did all the work.

Students started by picking a book to base their ride on. "We picked `Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' because it had lots of good ride ideas," Brooks said.

From there, they decided to come up with an entry based on the glass elevator ride that factory owner Willy Wonka gives Charlie and Grandpa Joe at the end of the book, said fourth-grader Michael Cramer, who helped explain the project to the judges.

To get into the plexiglass elevator, riders walk through a short maze of murals depicting scenes from the book, hence the name "A-maze-ing Wonkavator," said Cramer, 10.

The ride's motor system was designed so it stops automatically at either the lower level, which is decorated to look like the candy factory, or the upper level, which gives a bird's eye view of the town, he said.

Students used recycled materials for everything except the candy decorations - most of which came from the Willy Wonka candy factory in Illinois - and the small holographic discs that guide riders through the maze, Cramer said.

The project was interesting and fun, Cramer said. "I like tearing things apart and then putting them back together," he said.

The project sounded easier than it turned out to be, said team member Whitney Bishop, 9.

Students had to work on the project after school in addition to two hours of class time each week in order to finish it on time, Hoyle said.

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