Fifth graders Johan Bonachea and Brantley Smith won the marble roller coaster competition at the MOSI Science Olympics hosted in November.

Valrico Elementary School fifth graders Johan Bonachea and Brantly Smith won first place at the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) Science Olympics.

The fifth graders competed with their marble roller coaster, made from just tape, a cup, a plastic rubber strip and a marble. Their project was created after a class challenge.

Valrico Elementary’s fifth graders competed to see which roller coaster had the greatest velocity by seeing how far the cup would travel. Bonachea and Smith were paired up by their teacher for the project and won the class challenge, sending them to the district competition at MOSI.

“The biggest challenge was how big or small the loop would be, so they had to try the loop a few times,” said Bonachea’s mother, Elisa Beltran.

She said their cup went the farthest “by far” in the district competition.

“As mothers, we were beyond proud of our boys,” she said.

The Science Olympics is an annual competition for elementary school students to demonstrate their science, math and engineering skills.

“This engineering design challenge allows students to demonstrate their understanding that energy has the ability to cause motion or create change,” according to Hillsborough County’s Science Olympics Handbook, which offers critical thinking worksheets and guidelines for each project.

Bonachea and Smith were judged on whether their coaster met the hill, loop and tunnel requirements; whether they followed a blueprint; and how far the cup traveled.

“Dear Apprentice Engineers,” the challenge reads. “As ride engineers for the most popular theme park in the world, we are counting on you! … Your team has been assigned the task of designing a roller coaster that will attract visitors.”

The students participated in Valrico Elementary’s competition in early fall and advanced to the finals at MOSI on November 4. Over 1,200 students from kindergarten through fifth grade competed in science and engineering challenges during the two weeks of finals in Tampa.

“Johan and Brantley are very interested in other science projects,” Beltran said.

For more information about MOSI, the Science Olympics and other events hosted at the museum, visit or call 813-987-6000. MOSI is located at 4801 E. Fowler Ave in Tampa.

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Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher is a writer for the Osprey Observer. She started as an intern in the summer of 2020 and has continued to write for the Osprey Observer since completing her internship. Lily is majoring in mass communications at the University of South Florida and is a staff writer for the university’s paper, The Oracle. She enjoys writing about local nonprofit organizations and community role models who have made an impact on her hometown.