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Burns & McDonnell hires first Battle of the Brains winner

Posted: 11:03 AM, Jul 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-25 19:38:28-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Burns & McDonnell has hired its first Battle of the Brains student as an intern. 

Olivia Haney's team, Olathe North High School, won the very first Battle of the Brains competition in 2011 with "Science of Energy: Unplugged." Her team won a second time a couple years later with "Every Last Drop." Both of those exhibits can be seen at Union Station's Science City. 

“Having a student who participated in the Battle of the Brains program come to work as a STEM professional at Burns & McDonnell is the ultimate dream,” said Julee Koncak, Burns & McDonnell Foundation director. “There are simply more STEM jobs than there are people to fill them. Our mission is to introduce kids to STEM and the many types of careers available within this industry. We show them how they can make an incredible impact on our world – touching everything from technology to infrastructure.”  

Haney is a Kansas State student majoring in Chemistry and Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences. She is currently interning with Burns & McDonnell's Environmental Group. She graduates in December 2018. 

"Once I found a passion for the environment I knew there would be a career path for me and I know Battle of the Brains contributed to that," she said. "Applying and then being able to work for them has been really incredible to see the full circle." 

Battle of the Brains is a K-12 STEM competition where teams come up with ideas for exhibits at Science City. The winning team gets to work with Burns & McDonnell to make their concept a reality. So far, more than 18,000 students have been part of the competition in 55 school districts. 

"Just seeing that love of STEM at a young age is just amazing and moving forward to have a career in it is really awesome," said Haney. 

Haney spent time this summer speaking with the current Battle of the Brains winners, students at Grandview's CAIR program. 

"She was once in the position I was in, making the exhibit and coming here and going to meetings," said 10-year-old Trinity Johnson. "The fact that she got a job here, it makes it even more likely that I think I would get a job here." 

The group is designing "The Big Brain Theory" exhibit that will open at Science City early next year.

"It is supposed to be a gigantic two-story brain, but that could change," said 11-year-old Sebastian Williams. "In each different sector of the brain, the different lobes will be a different activity that relates to that lobe." 

To learn more about Battle of the Brains click here.

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