Crescenta Valley High School students
Crescenta Valley High School students show off their third-place-winning aerial device for the JPL Invention Challenge, held on Dec. 12, 2008. Image credit: NASA/JPL
Twenty-four student teams and six JPL employees raced their hand-built aerial cars 10 meters (33 feet) in the 11th annual Invention Challenge held Friday, Dec. 12. The devices used rubber bands, small motors and even carbon-dioxide cartridges, among other energy sources, to travel as fast as possible on steel wire suspended 1.2 meters (four feet) above the ground.

La Canada High School placed first with a time of 0.91 seconds using a carbon dioxide-powered device. Monroe Magnet Middle School of Inglewood placed second (2.36 seconds), while Chaminade College Preparatory of West Hills and Crescenta Valley High School tied for third (2.62 seconds and 2.65 seconds, respectively).

Among the JPL competitors, Kristan Ellis placed first (3.28 seconds), Steve Guertin and his team placed second (8.82 seconds) with a clever "Viking" boat whose sail changed direction as it swept towards the finish line, and Richard Fretz placed third (15.3 seconds).

Other awards were also given:


-- Most Creative: Arcadia High School, Arcadia
-- Most Unusual: Magnolia Science Academy, Reseda
-- Lightest and Smallest: Bruce Parham, JPL
-- Most Artistic: Steve Guertin, JPL
-- Largest: Steve Guertin, JPL
-- Heaviest: Richard Fretz, JPL

While the contest rules change each year, the goal of the Invention Challenge is to interest students in math, science and engineering. Contest organizer Paul D. MacNeal said that the competition also teaches students important lessons such as the importance of thorough preparation and teamwork.

"Students learned that trial and error are the best way to solve things, and that the best-laid plans don't always work," he said. "This year's contest offered up a lot of different solutions."

More information about the Invention Challenge can be found at http://education.jpl.nasa.gov/inventionchallenge/ .

Media Contact

Media contact: Rhea Borja/JPL
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