Ypsilanti Community High School's (YCHS) chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Jr. is brand new, but its Student Racing Challenge team is already making waves at the national level.
Ypsi's student chapter of the engineering society was just revived during the 2017-2018 school year. But the team recently returned from NSBE Jr.'s 44th annual national convention, which took place March 20-25 in Pittsburgh, having won first place in the endurance challenge of the Ten80 race. Ten80 is a STEM initiative of NSBE Jr. that teaches science and engineering concepts through modifying and racing remote-control cars.
The YCHS team had only competed once before in Ypsi before being invited to compete at the national level, says the chapter's advisor, Lynne Settles.
"The judges were pretty impressed and were surprised we had just started our chapter," Settles says. "They put in a lot of hard work in a short period to get to this level."
Student teams are given a basic kit for the car and have to decorate it as well as modify it to go faster. They are required to document the entire process on a display board as part of a presentation at the national conference.
A total of 50 teams from around the United States competed at the national level, including YCHS' team of seven 11th-grade students: Alexis Smith, Deahja Tigner, Iyana Morgan, Bennie Williams, Maximilian Harper, Horus McDaniel, and Duane Thomas.
The Ten80 challenge involved various races, and other teams won in the speed category, but the YCHS team's car won the endurance race that required the cars to make the most laps in an obstacle course without crashing into other cars or obstacles.
Settles says the kids had to raise about $8,000 to make the trip. They were helped by the University of Michigan's sponsor chapter, small local businesses, and nonprofits like the Rotary Club of Ypsilanti. For $25, local individuals or organizations could have their name listed on a sponsorship T-shirt worn by the YCHS team as well.
Settles says this was a unique "real world experience" for the Ypsi students, none of whom had ever been to a national conference before.
"It was a first for them, meeting this many people from around the country, and an opportunity to meet other high school student and college students from all over country, as well as professional engineers from every area of engineering from all over the country," she says. "It's an experience I don't think they will forget."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Lynne Settles.