Charles Sumner Math & Science Community Academy team wins engineering competition

When they heard their school’s name, the 7th graders jumped from their seats.

“First place, with 97.6 points,” said Lorenzo Craig of Truman College, “first place goes to Sumner!”

The students — all dressed in red, the school color of Charles Sumner Math & Science Community Academy — cheered, hugged and congratulated each other.

Those 23 students, along with students from eight other schools on the South and West sides, had taken a 10-week course organized by Project SYNCERE. The program’s goal is to expose underrepresented kids to careers in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math.

Every week, students learned aspects of engineering, such as coding and designing. They also worked with instructors to complete a group project — which required them to come up with an idea for a product to make homes more environmentally friendly.

The final leg of the competition was Wednesday and Thursday. Teams of students from the nine schools had to build a battery-powered robot in one hour and were scored on how well their robots completed a task. The awards ceremony was Friday at Amelia Earhart School, 1710 E. 93rd St.

Charles Sumner Math &  Science Community Academy students, during ENpowered Games robot challenge.

Charles Sumner Math & Science Community Academy students, during ENpowered Games robot challenge on Thursday. The team placed first in the class competition on Friday.

The Sumner students had the highest score out of all participating classes, with points awarded for their group project, the robot challenge, a quiz and their engineering notebooks.

“They’re just so excited and so proud of themselves” Laurie Stalheim, a math and science teacher at Sumner, 4320 W. 5th Ave. in West Garfield Park. Her students of her started the program in February.

“I’m not a crybaby, it takes a lot to make me cry,” Stalheim added. “But I’m in tears today.”

Stalheim said even students who aren’t always highly engaged in school came alive during Project SYNCERE, which gave them a chance to shine and increased their confidence.

Her students worked together in six groups to come up with creative ideas for their environmentally-friendly products, Stalheim said.

One group designed a color sensor to detect daylight — so when natural light is present, the lights turn off — “forcing you to use the natural light, and not just have the lights on even though you don’t really need them,” Stalheim said.

The class will get a trophy, and each student will get a certificate and an Uber Eats gift card.

Project SYNCERE leaders pose with students from the Amelia Earhart School at the award ceremony for the ENpowered Games hosted at Earhart Friday, May 6, 2022. Earhart placed third.

Project SYNCERE leaders, with students from the Amelia Earhart School, at Friday’s awards ceremony. Earhart placed third.

Mariana Azuela Elementary came in second in the class competition, and Earhart finished third.

The 10 groups with the most points were also honored, with Azuela’s Group 3 — Adam Moreno, Lexi Evariz, Axel Olivia and Leonardo Sanchez — taking the top spot.

Jason Coleman, a mechanical engineer and co-founder and executive director of Project SYNCERE, told students he would never have gotten into STEM if it weren’t for similar programs he was involved in after school.

I have urged the students to stay involved in those areas.

“It’s honestly up to you all to put in the work now, to be great leaders later on,” Coleman said. “It’s about taking advantage of the opportunities that are put in front of you.”

7th graders from the Charles Sumner Math &  Science Community Academy complete the ENpowered Games robot challenge.

Charles Sumner Math & Science Community Academy 7th graders complete the ENpowered Games robot challenge at Sumner on Thursday. The team placed first in the class competition on Friday.

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