By Tamas Mondovics

Alafia Elementary Students Shine At Planetary Lander “Egg Drop” Competition

Last month close to two dozen students from Alafia Elementary School traveled to the Kennedy Space Center to participate in the annual Planetary Lander “Egg Drop” Competition (PLEDC).

The event annually challenges students K-12 across Florida to compete for prizes against each other as each team is tasked with designing and building their own lander in which a raw-egg will serve as the payload and must survive a drop of almost 20-ft., just as a real NASA lander would on the Moon, Mars or an Asteroid.

It was the first year participating in the competition for Alafia Elementary, which sported several teams led by teachers Jill Brickhaus, Donna Terrell, and Jerry Turner. Each Alafia team came home with a trophy, earning every honor available to an elementary team.

Brickhaus Blaster’s (Space Monkeys) came in first place, followed by The Fantastic Four in second and The Gator Busters in third. The 6 Beagles captured the Fan Favorite award for Most Creative Lander.

“I am extremely proud of the perseverance shown by the students,” said Terrell, a fourth grade teacher at the school. “They were young engineers and scientists, creating multiple iterations of their design and testing the landers until they found what worked best.” 

Terrell added that the competition’s success is a great testimony to the school as well as the teachers who have given their “own time after hours to lead these inventive and hard-working students to victory.”

“The school supports after school enrichment opportunities in all STEM areas led by both parents and teachers. We have a supportive community of learners and leaders at Alafia Elementary,” Terrell said.

During PLEDC, participating teams must be able to build their planetary landers so that it can fit into a 10 inch by 10 inch by 12 inch container. The landers may be constructed of all forms of aluminum, plastic, wood or soft foam.

The competition’s website explained that the original competition titled the “Lunar Lander Eggs PRIZE” was initiated by the Earthrise Space Foundation (ESF) and was held in 2009 at the International Space Development Conference in Orlando, and was established to engage middle and high school students in STEM activities.

The competition served as a way to introduce the community to ESF’s team competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, Team Omega Envoy. High school teams built “lunar landers” that were capable of safely landing an egg on the ground from a high drop.

Teachers were inspired by the competition and requested that it be continued. Space Florida took the lead and ran the egg-drop competition from 2010-2015 to help generate interest and promote students’ understanding of aerospace technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as increase their awareness of organizations that help promote the space industry.
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7th Annual Fresh Flavors Student Food Tasting Expo

The Hillsborough County Public Schools Student Nutrition Services Department hosted its 7th annual Fresh Flavors – Food for Body and Mind Expo earlier this month at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre. Approximately 200 students from around the district had a chance to taste and rate new menu items for the 2016-2017 school year menu.  

“We had every grade level represented by the students who were ready to test the various potential future menu items,” said Tanya Arja with the district communications office. “Twenty-one new menu items were tested, including Gyro Flatbread Sandwich, Funfetti Quinoa Salad, and a Chicken & Pesto Piada.”  

During the event, students were to rate each item on a scale of “Love It,” “Like It,” or “Dislike It” based on the item’s appearance, smell, and taste.

“The purpose of the tasting is to help Student Nutrition Services provide healthy menus that are based on student preferences,” Arja said.  

This year a group of parents were also invited to be taste testers and participate in a question and answer session about school meal initiatives with Student Nutrition Services General Manager Dr. Mary Kate Harrison.

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