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Games involve teamwork and problem solving

March 14, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Five new challenges awaited students at the second annual Brain Drain Games Saturday.

Thirteen teams of students from local elementary and middle schools competed in Nile Adventure, Off Ramp, Puzzled?, Triple Play and Whistlin' Dixie at Hamilton Heights Elementary School.

In Nile Adventure, one or two team members propelled a low, wheeled "barge" down the "Nile" - a taped-off section of the gymnasium floor. One team used an old tricycle to pull its barge, another team used a wheelchair and another a door on wheels propelled by two girls "paddling" with small crutches.

Nick Snyder, 11, a fifth-grader at Guilford Hills Elementary School, moved his team's barge backwards through the course using homemade stilts duct-taped to his sneakers. He said he was picked for the job because his father made the barge; teammate Jordan Metz added "(Nick) has lots of energy."

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The barges brought building blocks - empty cardboard boxes- from the "quarry" to the building area, where the rest of the team constructed a building at least 4 feet high.

Boxes containing 20 pounds of potting soil each then were stacked on the completed structure to see how sturdy it was. The team of six 11-year-olds from Hamilton Heights Elementary School who won the activity, The Brain Freezers, had 15 boxes of potting soil on theirs.

Team member Alex Fennen explained the team's building strategy. "We made layers, big then small, then the sarcophagi, then some extra boxes on top (to make the structure taller)."

"This shows them how the ancient Egyptians had a hard time transporting materials down the Nile to build the pyramids," coordinator Mary Jo Frey said. "The weighted boxes are the sarcophagi," or stone coffins used by the Egyptians.

The students knew the requirements for Nile Adventure ahead of time, and met several times before the competition to make their equipment and plan their strategy.

There was no advance planning for the Off Ramp challenge, though. Teams were given two toy cars, 25 inches of masking tape, two boxes of aluminum foil and a desk. They had 10 minutes to build jumping and landing ramps for the cars. The entire structure had to be free-standing, and the car had to be released from rest, not pushed. Each team's score was the distance a car traveled in its best jump.

Judge Cory Oberlin, 17, of Chambersburg, said that some of the teams realized they could use the box the foil came in to make the ramp more sturdy.

"Some taped the inner roll (of the foil) to the desk at a downward angle and let the car roll through it," he said.

Charles Stewart, a retired chemistry and physics teacher from the Blairsville-Saltsburg school district, and Gerry Gasperini, an English teacher in that district, bring the Brain Drain Games to schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In their nine years of doing the games for their own district, the men have found that the students enjoy being challenged.

"They are learning teamwork and problem solving, and don't realize they are learning because they're having so much fun," Stewart said.

The men make presentations about the games at conferences so that other schools can come up with their own games.

"We know it works," Stewart said.

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