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Spearfish students win annual Car Wars competition

A team of Spearfish sophomores won the annual Car Wars, an electronics competition where a two-person team assembles and races an electronic remote control car. The competition is based on the idea that young minds learn best by doing says Tom Termes, professor and chair of the department of Industrial and Informational Technology at Black Hills State University, who serves as one of the organizers of the annual event. Pictured from left to right are the winners from Spearfish high school: Dave Gannaway and Carson Wyka, who received fourth place in the competition; Ms. Kristi McCoy, electronics teacher at Spearfish high school; and Brady Hansen and Jamin Battles who earned first place in the competition.
A team of Spearfish sophomores won the annual Car Wars, an electronics competition that challenges students to assemble and race an electronic remote control car.

The competition is based on the idea that young minds learn best by doing says Tom Termes, professor and chair of the department of Industrial and Informational Technology at Black Hills State University, who serves as one of the organizers of the annual event. The two-person teams build and race remote controlled model cars. Participants assemble the model car, construct all of the electronics on the electronic circuit board, and ensure the transmitter and receiver work so all of the components work.

 “This is a daunting challenge and some of the students who attempt to compete are not successful,” Termes says.

All students are provided with the same model car kit and students are encouraged to modify the car in any way they choose. In fact they are encouraged to “get creative” and rebuild to increase performance.

The competition is the brain child of a group of Black Hills educators who met four years ago with a mission of creating an opportunity for high school students to learn about science and technology with a fun approach.  Among others, this group consisted of Graydon Dailey from Belle Fourche, Nick Heinen from Lead, Kristi McCoy from Spearfish, Don Ericson from Sturgis, Chad Ronish from Hill City, Tom Termes from Black Hills State University, Buff Tewahade from Oelrichs, and Brett Schroick and Karl Emanuel from the Box Elder Job Corp.

“We agreed that educators must find ways to motivate students to excel in the technical subjects,” Termes says. “After much debate the group decided to roll the ideas of robotics and racing into a competition. The group also decided that students should be offered the opportunity to win prizes. “

Termes says group decided that high school students would learn more about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the U.S. Department of Education refers to this combination of subjects “STEM”) if they were exposed to an engaging activity.

“Those who succeed have a chance for some large rewards.  Each member of the winning team receives $100 in cash and $100 in gift certificates from a local electronics store, Chris Supply, Rapid City,” Termes says.  “In addition the winning school gets to take home the ‘Traveling Trophy’ recognizing the winner as the “best of the best” in electronic competition.”

Winners of the 2008 Car Wars competition, held at the Box Elder Job Corp gymnasium, were: First place - Brady Hansen and Jamin Battles from Spearfish; second place - Ben Johnson and Casey Knowlton-Key from Hill City; third place - Eric Quaschnick and Russ Prince from Lead;  fourth place - Carson Wyka and Dave Gannaway from Spearfish; and fifth place - Trevor Rossknecht and Casey Knowlton-Key from Hill City.

Termes noted that this competition would not be possible without the generous support from the following industrial partners:  Rushmore Communications, Rapid City; Black Hills Power, Rapid City; Sanmina SCI, Rapid City; Nida Corp, Melbourne, Fla.; SymCom Corporation, Rapid City; Daktronics, Brookings; and Black Thunder Coal Company of Wright, Wyo.

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