County kids win international title

CLEMSON — A team from Clemson Elementary won the grand championship at the International JetToy Challenge last week in Detroit, Mich., beating out 120 engineer design teams from around the world.
Jakob Ables, Jonathan Dong, and Stone Ke walked away from competition as 2012 International JetToy Challenge Grand Champions, after using only the parts and materials presented to them the day of the competition to build and race toy cars.
The team, along with a second Clemson Elementary team made up of Jacob Zambrano, Dylan Hall, Will Purkerson, represented the Anderson, Oconee, Pickens (AOP) region.
All team members, who are fifth-grade students at Clemson Elementary School, advanced to the international competition after winning at the district level and then at the regional level earlier this year.
Meredith Cross, the boys’ teacher, accompanied the teams to Detroit.
“We are very proud of our boys,” said Dr. Ken Weichel, Clemson Elementary principal. “We are honored and humbled by their success. Ms. Cross is a superb teacher. Our school and kids are better because of her.”
Paul Stenquest, a New York Times-featured automotive writer, described the competition on the newspaper’s website — in addition to mentioning and including Clemson Elementary School students among the winners of Wednesday’s competition.
The grand champion team of Ables, Dong and Ke also received silver awards in distance and weight-carrying abilities. The team of Zambrano, Hall and Purkerson won a bronze award in distance.
“Before you knew it, everyone knew Clemson Elementary from South Carolina was there,” said Danny Fahey, the school district’s school-to-work facilitator, who also accompanied the teams to Detroit. “This was long before the awards ceremony. It is something we all should take great pride in. These six students and their teacher Meredith Cross deserve so much credit. The students and Meredith represented our entire AOP district with grace and professionalism.”
Competing vehicles are constructed on-site the day of the event, using only those materials supplied in a kit. Students are briefed on rules and procedures, but no engineering assistance is provided. Industry volunteers, who may have previously provided classroom instruction, are enlisted as judges and scoring officials.
Teams of three or four students compete in a variety of events. On Tuesday, the first day of competition, children assembled electric cars to climb steep ramps, make all-out speed runs and bull their way through obstacle courses. Similar tests of accuracy, endurance and speed were scheduled for the second and third days of competition.
For the first day’s electric-car competition, each team was assigned a race lane one meter wide and four meters long, and all practice and competition runs were performed in that lane. The car with the fastest time was pronounced the winner in each event.