Nimitz's WhyPower team named State Champions
Over the course of ten days in May, Randall Ohman’s students of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy at Nimitz Middle School went from semi-interested and obscurity to a room full of chattering, super excited contenders for the top spot in WhyPower (www.whypower.net/compete).
The WhyPower Competition is a Texas middle school competition to earn the most virtual currency (clams) in WhyPower by learning energy industry knowledge and managing virtual energy systems. WhyPower is in Whyville, the learning-based virtual world. WhyPower project partners are Power Across Texas, DaVinci Minds, Numedeon (creators of Whyville) and Alamo Colleges.
Shown, left to right, are Dana Stolhandske, principal of Nimitz Middle School: Grant Rorem and Caetano Rochelle, 2 of the 35 students on the team; and Randy Ohman, robotics teacher.
Here are a few student explanations of how they won:
"We didn't waste a lot of our clams on stuff like a car or expensive clothes. Our first priority was power plants." - Seth Kammerer
"Hydro" - Marcus Garza
"Hard work and putting the time in to do it really helps." - Cae Rochelle
"I scored a lot of clams in Peak Power." - Aaron Pfitzenmaier
"Solar, wind and hydro!" - Dante Gilmore
Perhaps student Gilmore was influenced from way back in the competition when Jeff Felty, teacher at Lopez Middle School, graciously responded to Ohman’s plea for help with "place solar panels and wind turbines to earn clams." (Felty had two teams in the top 25 of the competition as well--120 teams competed.)
The rest is history. Ohman’s students now had purpose. As the days proceeded and students acquired skills and knowledge they were able to watch their place improve.
"They felt the freedom to branch out into other areas ripe for clam harvesting like salary boosting knowledge exercises and feats of management proficiency worthy of bonus clams," said Ohman. "Peak Power challenges were fruitful to several."
In the last few days the team's place incrementally improved to the point they were in contention for a top place. Press releases were issued to the principal for daily announcements.
"The result was a popular groundswell of support and excitement throughout Nimitz over what the team was doing, and what they potentially might (and did) do," said Ohman. "With one day to go, they team was in 2nd place! The excitement was high and they played and played and ... won!"
As a prize for their achievement, Nimitz will receive a presentation of "Science in the Movies" by Steve Wolf's production company Special FX International.
Funding for WhyPower is provided by the Texas Governor's Office and the Texas Workforce Commission through original funding from the
U.S. Department of Labor; and also by Next Generation Learning Challenges. Next Generation Learning Challenges is led by EDUCAUSE in partnership with the League for Innovation in the Community College, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Funding is being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Posted on June 7, 2012