The heart of the challenge

PV seniors win award from Panasonic Creative Design Challenge


Contributed by Jim Kennedy

Members of the Panasonic Creative Design Challenge team, along with mentors Jim Kennedy and Bill Koenig, were awarded with a “Special Category” prize for “Best Overall Documentation” at the Panasonic Creative Design Challenge at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. The team received the award on April 16.

After becoming the first all-girl Panasonic Creative Design Challenge team at Pascack Valley, PV seniors Brenna Collins, Bianca Belmonte, and Julia Guskind were awarded with a “Special Category” prize for “Best Overall Documentation” on April 16 at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

“I was in Kennedy’s Honors Engineering class and he showed us what the previous team did last year,” Collins said. “I was very interested, and that’s when Julia and Bianca asked me if I wanted to join because they wanted to create an all-girl team this year.”

PV physics and technology and Honors Engineering Design teacher Jim Kennedy and physics teacher Bill Koenig are both mentors for the Panasonic Creative Design Challenge Team. After noticing the girls’ talent in engineering in Kennedy’s class, he asked Guskind, Belmonte, and Collins to join the Panasonic Creative Design Challenge Team.

“They stood out as very capable and competent people,” Kennedy said. “They were interested, they were motivated, they were good students, and they seemed to be busy, so I asked if they would like to participate, and they turned out to be a very good and cohesive team.”

The Panasonic Creative Design Challenge was created by Panasonic, an electric cooperation, which partners with the New Jersey Institute of Technology to “engage and inspire young minds with a complex engineering and technology challenge,” according to its website.

“It’s important to embrace the challenge, meaning to see it all the way through, because there’s so many components to it,” Koenig said. “There are pieces that may not be ‘fun.’ There’s going to be a lot of frustration along the way, but if they persevere, then there’s going to be a lot of personal satisfaction at the end.”

Three NJIT honor students were hired as interns to develop the design challenge each year, and the competition requires a maximum of three high school students to compete and collaborate in one team.

“[The challenge] really lets you get hands on and get your mind flowing,” Collins said. “It gives you a chance to see what the engineering field is.”

This year’s challenge was to design a device that could stimulate a heart transplant, and each team had to participate in the preliminary challenge in order to move on to the final challenge.

Contributed by Jim Kennedy
PV seniors Julia Guskind, Brenna Collins, and Bianca Belmonte pose with their device that stimulates a heart transplant.

“We considered a lot of ideas before building the claw machine, such as a robot on wheels that could move around the base of our challenge course or other stationary claws, but we wanted a device that was able to move in all different directions,” Guskind said.

After the team was called back from the preliminary challenge, the group had to give an oral presentation in front of NJIT engineering professors and Panasonic marketing professionals on March 16. The group received a score of 90 for their oral presentation, and they had to submit a five page written report explaining the physics behind their design and their engineering logbook on April 19.

“The ‘Best Documentation Award’ encompasses our written report, as well as our logbook,” Guskind said. “The logbook is a physical book, and it we record everything we did such as the time we got together or any idea we had. Basically, it’s a recording of the entire process.”

Now that their competition is over, the design challenge team hopes that more women will become interested in STEM and engineering, and they were excited to learn that underclassmen that accompanied the team and witnessed the challenge expressed interest in joining the Panasonic Creative Design Challenge team later on in their high school career.

“It’s already gotten a lot of girls that are juniors this year to approach both Mr. Koenig and myself, saying that they want to be apart of this next year,” Kennedy said.