Project Lead The Way students demonstrate ingenuity in Senior Showcase competitions

Kansas City, MO (May 3, 2022)—Nearly 400 students from 36 schools came together to showcase their senior capstone projects in engineering and biomedical sciences at Union Station on April 26. Visitors, who had the opportunity to attend in person for the first time since 2019, found projects ranging from automatic dog doors to a train warning system and an app to help those with intellectual disabilities call or text.

More than 150 professionals from across the fields of science, technology, engineering and math served as judges and reviewers for the awards and scholarships associated with the event.

The top 10 teams in two categories (Engineering Design and Biomedical Research & Design) received recognition during the showcase, with the top three teams in each category receiving scholarships of $2,500 for first place, $1,500 for second place and $1,000 for third place. The scholarships were announced in an online ceremony on May 3.

The Senior Showcase also included the Innovator Awards, which recognize the innovativeness and marketability of projects. This competition was judged by KC STEM Alliance partner Startland Education and were announced during the showcase with a roving drum line by the Startland team and competition sponsor Commerce Bank.

Here’s a look at the top teams and projects:

Engineering Design Competition

Two high school students stand before a display board

First Place: “Walkway Lighting” by Grace McKee and Aidan Juarez of Summit Tech Academy. Outdoor lighting is often poorly shielded and brighter than necessary, which contributes to light pollution and uplighting. An estimated 99 percent of the U.S. and European population lives under light-polluted skies. This reduces star visibility, disrupts local ecosystems and can negatively affect human health.

Two female students stand before a colorful project display board.

Second Place: “Automatic Pet Door” by Gretschen Nichol, Jett Reidlinger and Andi David, Summit Technology Academy. The team innovated an Automatic Pet Door design to be a better option for the consumer and a big competitor on the market. This design includes enhanced safety features, weatherproofing and reasonable pricing.

Third Place: The Godfather Clock by Hana Elkishawi, Benjamin Lampe and Wyatt Carlson, Summit Technology Academy. The Godfather Clock is an innovation of the standard alarm clock that takes the process of waking up to the next level. By activating both the mind and body, the Godfather Clock will get users up and running in no time.

Also recognized for placing in the top 10 of the Engineering Design Competition:

Project NameSchool DistrictSchoolTeam Members
HomeED HealthcareBlue SpringsBlue Springs SouthJenny Tran
Flossing Toothbrush ProductLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyAlivia Tolbert, Jared Townsley, Nicholas Metsker
Rain ShieldLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyConnor Bichsel, Ava Rhodus, Kate Boosman
Luteinizing Hormone MonitorBlue SpringsBlue Springs SouthAlexis Buckner
Walker Accessibility in StoresLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyPiper Stropes, Jonah Hammel
Train Warning SystemGrain ValleyGrain Valley HighCaleb Lehmann, John Martin , Philip Helphrey
Sustainable 3-Ring BinderLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyHenry Gikonyo, Grant Huffman, Kevin Silva Nunez
Portable Medicine ContainerShawnee MissionCenter for Academic AchievementAndrew Ward, Felix Kauffman


Biomedical Research & Design Competition

First Place: “Can E Coli K-12 bacteria develop resistance to bacteriophage T4?” by Lucas Eggers from Lee’s Summit West High, Rachel Hawver from Lee’s Summit High, Marin McMenus from Lee’s Summit West High, and Connor Stock from Lee’s Summit West High. Since bacteria have developed antibiotic resistance over the past decades, there is a need for a new type of antibacterial treatment. In this experiment E Coli bacteria will be exposed to coliphage T4, which is a type of bacteriophage that infects E Coli. The bacteria will be exposed over several days in order to provide the bacteria with an environment that requires them to develop resistance to the particular bacteriophage in order to survive.

Second Place: “Effect of Organic and Chemical Disinfectants on the Growth of S. epidermidis” by Chelsea Foxhoven from Lee’s Summit High, Ella Ann Oldham from Raymore-Peculiar High, and Trinity Wheeler from Lee’s Summit North High, who conducted this research while attending Summit Technology Academy. The study determines the effectiveness of organic disinfectants, apple cider vinegar and lemongrass essential oil, to chemical disinfectants, Lysol and Clorox Bleach. The effects of each cleaner on the growth of Staphylococcus Epidermidis is to be determined by measuring the zone of inhibition (mm).

Third Place: “The Effect of Climate Change on Local Aquatic Life: How Expected Increases in Precipitation and Pesticide Runoff May Affect Missouri Crustaceans” by Jose Saenz-Olivas from Van Horn High School, Independence School District. With the likelihood of concentrated precipitation increasing during spring and fall due to global warming and climate change, what does that mean for Missouri’s wildlife? How will aquatic life in Missouri ponds, lakes and rivers be affected by the increased likelihood of fertilizer and pesticide runoff?

Also recognized for placing in the top 10:

Project NameSchool DistrictSchoolTeam Members
To What Extent do Silver Nanoparticles Affect the Ability of Drosophila Melanogaster to Produce Viable Offspring?Blue SpringsBlue SpringsZora McCormick
Disabling a Streptomycin Resistance Gene with the CRISPR-Cas9 SystemLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyAnthony Klote, Kendall Watson, Olivia Roth
Phototactic Assay in D. dorotocephala, P. gracilias, and P. fluviatilis Over Multiple WavelengthsNorth KCStaley HighBraydon Cowan
Effect of Supplemented Collagen on the Regeneration of Giardia duodenalisNorth KCStaley HighKaitlyn Montemayor
The Effect of Silver Nanoparticles at Concentration Additives of 5ug/L, 60ug/L, and 120ug/L on Chlorella AlgaeLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyAlison Smith, Madeline Schmidt, Will Wisnasky
Effects of Average Daily Screen Time on Cortisol Levels in TeenagersLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyEmily Joseph, Bashir Khalil, Brooke Techau
The Effect of An Individual’s STEM-Related Field of Study on Cortisol Levels Within A Salivary SampleLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyWilliam Gragg, Jake Cumberland, Kali Ellis, Amy Castillo
Probiotic Antibiotic Resistance TransmissionNorth KCStaley HighJerrilynn Phillippi
The Effects of 7 common antibiotics on Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Lactobacillus Plantarum Bacterial GrowthLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyFaith Daniel , Kaylee Mancha Cabrera, Kate Green

Sustainability Award

Van Horn High School’s Jose Saenz-Olivas (pictured in the Biomedical Research Competition above) received the Sustainability Challenge Award, which asks students to seek solutions to environmental issues facing our region. Jose received a $1,000 scholarship after his study, “The Effect of Climate Change on Local Aquatic Life: How Expected Increases in Precipitation and Pesticide Runoff May Affect Missouri Crustaceans,” was selected from among 16 projects. The scholarship is sponsored by Climate Action KC and Johnson Controls.

Innovator Awards

The goal of the Innovator Awards is to recognize the innovativeness and marketability of an idea. It also focuses on the students’ passion and ability to communicate their ideas. Students submitted their projects virtually along with a 1-minute video.  Mentors from the business community and local entrepreneurs worked with Startland Education to to determine the top 10 innovators. They included:

Aaron Volk, Blue Springs School District, inventor of the Bear Bag

Avery Warlen, Blue Springs School District, the creator of an app aiming to make texting and calling on a mobile phone easier for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Ella Miller, Blue Springs South High School, the creator of the Infrared Blood Glucose Monitor 

Kara Standley, Blue Springs South High School, for developing a new way to monitor temperature on small mammals

Jose Saenz-Olivas, Van Horn High School in Independence, for his study on the effect of climate change on local aquatic life

Nitzia Castillo Avila, Van Horn High School, for her invention of Dehydration Detection Strips 

Lannah Blystone and Leo Umbowers of Van Horn High School for a project to reduce plastic waste from our use of hand sanitizers

Jonah Hammel and Piper Stropes of Summit Technology Academy and representing their home high schools of Lee’s Summit North and Lee’s Summit High for a new way to make shopping  a more user-friendly experience for those needing assistance of a walker.

Cole Cure and Kale Napier of the Center for Academic Achievement and representing their home high school of Shawnee Mission East for their foot-controlled drive system.

Felix Kauffman and Andrew Ward of the Center for Academic Achievement and representing their home high school of Shawnee Mission East for their portable medicine container invention.

Make It REAL Scholarships

The Make It REAL Scholarship is awarded to students who apply by submitting a video or essay reflecting on their four years of Project Lead The Way courses and their capstone project. Students can use the $500 award for their education or to continue work on their projects.

Recipients included:

PreciousPlaisimeFort Osage School DistrictFort Osage High School
HayleeEstenbaumFort Osage School DistrictFort Osage High School
ChloeIreland-KilldayGrain Valley SchoolsGrain Valley High School
KaylaRobertsFort Osage School DistrictFort Osage High School
MarianaVillegasFort Osage School DistrictFort Osage High School

Editors Note: High resolution photos by Charles Maples Photography available here.