Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Three sixth-graders found a way to get involved in an activity and help the community by participating in the Army Education Outreach Program’s 2021 eCybermission competition, eventually becoming state champions.
According to the official eCybermission website: “eCybermission is a web-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) competition for students in grades six through nine. Students are challenged to explore how STEM works in their world while working as a team to solve problems in their community.”
Isaac Alvis, who was familiar with the competition because of his older brother’s participation, decided at the beginning of the semester to recruit his friends, Danielle Ohwovoriole and Wesley Jones, to enter the competition.
“I thought it’d be a fun thing to do, and I asked them if they wanted to do it, and they said they did,” Alvis said.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, all extracurricular activities were canceled for Unified School District 207 for the 2020-2021 schoolyear, but the youngsters formed their own eCybermission team to tackle a challenge. Ohwovoriole and Jones both agreed it was a good idea.
“I hadn’t really done any (engineering) before, but I wanted to try something new,” Ohwovoriole said. “It was pretty fun.”
“I wasn’t really doing anything at the time, and I wanted something hands-on,” Jones added.
They named their community team “Kansas Craniums,” then researched, planned and designed a standing tabletop desk attachment to fit student desks to help combat childhood obesity.
“When you use (the standing desk attachment) you burn more calories. When you burn more calories, you lose more weight,” Ohwovoriole said. “The whole goal was that you lose more weight during the school day so that you don’t have to do as much extra activity outside school.
“(In our research), we learned that there are 13.7 million obese children or adolescents just in America, and a lot of the children in America are overweight and on the verge of being obese, which can have serious effects and create more hospital bills,” she said. “Many of the programs that already exist (to help) take time out of your day or are very high-intensive, and the research showed that a lot that left the program gained the weight back. We wanted to do something simple that would help not make it such a big deal.”
To help in their research, the team consulted with an engineer who helped them figure out the most cost-effective design, as well as an occupational therapist and a physician who both agreed that their design would be beneficial.
After creating a prototype using a wooden board, adjustable legs from a walker, with hook-and loop fasteners to help hold it in place, it was time to experiment.
With special permission from MacArthur Elementary School Principal Tyler Fowler, each team member tested the prototype during school hours. Using a smartwatch, they tracked their calories burned for one hour sitting and one hour standing three separate times giving them data points to compare. On average, the students burned 42 more calories standing for an hour than they did sitting, Jones said.
“It was a lot more enjoyable than just sitting at your desk,” Jones said.
There were other benefits, too, Alvis said.
“It helped us focus better, too,” he said.
Once the experiment was complete, the team worked to fill out the information for their mission folder, which included questions about how the team was formed, a detailed description of each team member’s responsibilities, their research and the experiment findings, which they submitted in late March.
Then, in mid-April, they received word that they won first-place for the state of Kansas and were one of three regional finalists in the sixth-grade division. Each of them received a $1,000 savings bond for each level of the competition.
“(Winning) definitely boosted our spirits and made us feel like we accomplished something, like it was worth something,” Alvis said.
Now, the team agreed they hope to patent the design and reach schools across the country.
“Especially to schools that aren’t on a military base and are less fortunate where not everybody has medical help,” Alvis said.
“I hope it can start helping kids get more physical activity,” Jones said.
For more information, visit eCybermission.com.