All-girl STEM team wins ‘Best Seismic Performance’ at competition


The girls PV STEM League competed at the AIA NJ Architecture Tower Challenge and won “Best Seismic Performance” for their engineered spaghetti and marshmallow tower in a simulated earthquake.

Eight students came home victorious from an all-girls event, The American Institute of Architects New Jersey Tower Challenge, at Tenafly High School on Thursday, Feb. 6. The team won “Best Seismic Performance” for their indestructible tower design. 

“Our team did exceptionally well, and I think why they did so well is they each recognized their strengths and were able to communicate very well with one another,“ said Jim Kennedy, a teacher of technology and engineering education.

Technology and engineering education teacher Danielle deQuintal said that the main focus of the day was to encourage women in STEM and allow students to work directly with other female architects to learn about what it is like to be a woman in the field. 

Seniors Frances Cortuna, Kathleen Gifford, Katie Mullaney, Emily Rabinowitz, Maddie Rosenthal, Anna Urrea, and freshmen Minche Kim and Francesca Sanelli were chosen by deQuintal and Kennedy to compete on this girls STEM team together. 

“This competition showed that young women can do anything without the help of a male,” Rosenthal said. “If anything, I believe that we worked better together as an all-girl team.”

Throughout the day, the team drew sketches, designed a 3-D CAD drawing of their building with size restrictions, built the tower with only spaghetti noodles and marshmallows, presented how their design fit into the world of architecture to a group of judges, and tested their design on a shake table used to simulate an earthquake. 

“The competition was stressful at first, but after we finished our design, it was so rewarding to see how our hard work was able to produce something great,” Rabinowitz said. “Since I want to go into engineering, I’m glad I got to experience the problem-solving process that engineers and architects have to go through when working on a project like this.”

PV’s STEM league has five events each year, this being the second. The next event will be held at New Providence High School in the spring and the challenge topic will be revealed in March. The year-end event will be hosted by Northern Highlands High School on May 20.

“My takeaway as a male teacher and a parent of two girls is that you are capable, you are bright, you are confident, and you can do anything you set your mind too,” Kennedy said.