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Battle of the Brains supports STEM education

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Posted at 5:30 AM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 09:10:56-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the spirit of School Day at The K, KSHB 41 News is highlighting Battle of the Brains, which promotes STEM education in the Kansas City area.

Local engineering firm Burns & McDonnell partners with Science City to host the regional competition.

Schools pitch their best idea for a new exhibit at the science center, and the winning school spends a year with Burns & McDonnell employees turning their concept into a real, permanent exhibit.

Since 2011, Battle of the Brains has created six exhibits in conjunction with winning ideas from students. About half of the exhibition space at Science City is now made up of student-designed exhibits.

On April 7, organizers announced the "Riveting Robotics" team from Raytown C-2 School District’s Westridge Elementary School won this year’s competition.

“I thought it was a dream, or I was making it up in my head. I couldn’t believe we won,” admitted Milli Sherrod, a fourth grade student at Westridge. “I cannot wait to see what it’s going to look like."

The ten-year-old is one of about 40 students in the school’s Challenge (Gifted Program) who created the winning concept, which highlights robots at work in people's daily lives.

Students imagine the exhibit will have several interactive displays walking visitors through designing and programming robots. The exhibit could allow visitors to control a robot during a fake surgery, create a miniature Mars rover, program a robotic arm to pick up pencils, play board games against robots and much more.

“There has never been a more urgent time to encourage students to explore how they can shape the future of technology, and this exhibit envisioned by the Raytown Challenge (Gifted Program) team will give students an interactive introduction into the world of robotics. Our hope is these exhibits will inspire ‘aha’ moments that will make kids more curious about STEM careers,” Ray Kowalik, Burns & McDonnell chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Sherrod’s team won a $50,000 grant to buy new supplies for the classroom in order to help with the year-long design process.

One of her teachers, Megan Finlay, loves that Battle of the Brains gives students a sense of how the lessons they learn in the classroom apply to the real world.

“It’s really interactive, hands-on, working together to develop an idea,” Finlay said. “The other thing I think they really enjoy is seeing a final product come together and knowing their hard work has paid off.”

Burns & McDonnell awarded more than $155,000 in grants to finalists during this year’s Battle of the Brains competition.