Women in Engineering

Seniors participate in Panasonic Creative Design Challenge


Contributed by Julia Guskind

(From left to right) Seniors Bianca Belmonte, Brenna Collins, and Julia Guskind participated in this year’s Panasonic Creative Design Challenge. The competition was hosted by the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Jan. 30.

Pascack Valley seniors Julia Guskind, Brenna Collins, and Bianca Belmonte participated in this year’s Panasonic Creative Design Challenge hosted by the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Jan. 30.

“Panasonic’s goal is to encourage kids to think creatively in order to design a device to solve a problem,” Collins said.

As juniors, Guskind, Collins, and Belmonte were enrolled in the Honors Engineering class taught by technology and engineering teacher Jim Kennedy. This is when they first saw last year’s team work on the challenge.

“This year, Kennedy wanted an all-girls team, so from Kennedy introducing it to us last year, this made me think it was so cool,” Belmonte said. “Since my brother was an engineer, I thought maybe I would be one.”

Since Panasonic’s theme was heart transplants, Guskind, Collins, and Belmonte worked together to make a device to simulate a heart transplant surgery and perform multiple tasks.

The device had to flip a switch to turn on a light, replicating what happens to an individual’s eyes while sleeping, peel open a piece of felt to emulate a rib cage, and pick up a rubber heart. It also had to transport a black diseased heart to a medical box and get a new heart from a medical refrigerator to put back into the rib cage.

“In the beginning months, we began to do a lot of researching and getting familiar with the challenge,” Guskind said.

The group started meeting early Saturday mornings in October to start brainstorming and building prototypes to find a possible solution to the challenge. Building the device did not start until the last week of December.

“Kennedy introduced to us the idea of gantry cranes which is inspired by the claw game machine that you see when you go to an arcade that picks up stuffed animals,” Belmonte said. “We found that worked most effectively.”

After the team was finished with their final prototype, they competed with around 70 to 80 other schools at NJIT.

“We had around three to four judges and they told us that we were one of the teams to complete the most,” Collins said. “Many teams weren’t able to pick up the rib cage, but we did.”

The finals list to compete in the next level was not yet announced but around 25 to 28 groups with the maximum of 30 groups will be selected to make it to the finals.

“I think we have a good shot at getting to finals,” Belmonte said.

Looking back at the competition, the girls said that they are grateful for the opportunity to learn new skills that will prepare them for the future.

“I am grateful for the amount of knowledge that I gained from the experience because going into it, I really knew nothing,” Guskind said. “Just being able to work on the physical device and prototype, I learned so much like using the correct tools, gears, coding, mechanics. It’s knowledge that I wouldn’t be getting anywhere else before college.”