Brother and Sister are Named "STEM Stars"
RALEIGH, N.C. (December 3, 2014) – Imagine using the sun to water your garden – Wake Tech students Monique and Mitchell LaValley are sure it can be done! The brother and sister have created a green alternative to electric generators: a solar-powered Stirling Engine that could be attached to a rain barrel for outdoor watering. They created the engine for STEM Stars, a Wake Tech competition designed to reward student creativity and innovation in science, technology, engineering and math. Monique and Mitchell won the competition, becoming Wake Tech's first “STEM Stars” and earning a cash prize of $500! Both are pursuing Associate in Science degrees in Pre-engineering and plan to transfer to NC State University for mechanical engineering.
“We’re very honored to win this competition, and we don’t plan to stop here,” said Mitchell. “We’re excited about continuing to develop our idea – and to seeing it become a reality someday!”
STEM Stars challenged students to create a product, process or technology enhancement that could benefit others. Thirty-five ideas were submitted, and the students who submitted the top three ideas worked with industry professionals for eight weeks to research and develop their products. Product specs, functionality and marketing were all considerations, and the students had to “sell” their ideas to a panel of three judges.
“This was a wonderful learning experience!” said Dr. Cheryl Keeton, Dean of Mathematics and Sciences. “It was a chance for students to challenge themselves and to see what it takes to turn great ideas into reality. The input from industry mentors – and the chance to work alongside them – was icing on the cake. We’re tremendously grateful to these professionals for their generous support.”
Ryan Garrigues, a second-year Associate in Science student, finished the competition in second place with his idea for an after-market plug-in for cruise control that would optimize fuel economy. Third place belonged to John Blackwell, a second-semester bioengineering student with an idea for improving parking: installing traffic counters at campus entrances to send data to a smart phone app. His goal is to help students get to class on time! All won cash prizes provided by the Wake Tech Foundation.