Project Lead The Way students demonstrate the significance of youth-driven innovation in Senior Showcase competitions

Kansas City, MO (May 2, 2023)—On April 25, 414 students from 32 schools gathered at the Overland Park Convention Center to display their Project Lead The Way senior capstone projects in engineering and biomedical sciences. Attendees saw a variety of projects, from door lock reminders and eco-friendly dry-erase markers to biomedical research on concussion diagnosis improvements.

More than 218 professionals from the realms of science, technology, engineering and math participated as judges and evaluators for the event’s awards and associated scholarships, which totaled $12,000 and were distributed to 26 students.

The Senior Showcase also included recognition of finalists for the Make It Real Scholarship and the Innovator Awards, which recognize the innovativeness and marketability of projects. The Innovator Award judging was coordinated by KC STEM Alliance’s partner, Startland Education. Winners were announced during the showcase through a roving announcement by the Startland team and the competition’s sponsor, Commerce Bank.

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

Engineering Design Competition

The Engineering and Product Design Competition is for students who use the engineering design process to design a product or solve a problem. The Top 10 teams were recognized during the showcase, with the top two teams receiving scholarships.

Top Project Scholarship Award: The “Indicating Pill Box” by Summit Technology Academy students Alexander Abbott from Lee’s Summit High School, Abigail Webster from Lee’s Summit North High School, and Kaden Ellertson from Lee’s Summit West High School explored specific challenges faced by caregivers who administer medication to adults and/or children with special health care needs.

Top Project Scholarship Award: The “Environmentally Friendly Dry-Erase Marker” by Summit Technology Academy students Karson Ruehling from Lee’s Summit High School, Brianna Harmon from Lee’s Summit West High School and Madison Bellamy from Lee’s Summit High School addresses sustainability issues associated with the widespread use and disposal of dry-erase markers. The project examines marker recycling and eco-friendly alternatives to reduce waste and lower the carbon footprint.

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

Project NameSchool DistrictSchoolTeam Members
Finger InjuriesLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyPaige Keep, William Abts, Brooklynn Ross
Grocery Protection Unit (GPU)Grain ValleyGrain ValleyDante Castilleja, Cooper Bailey
Orthodontic Fabricated MouthguardLibertyLiberty NorthElizabeth Gargas, Tatum Henneberg
Hot Car FanLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyElla Neir, Olivia Sifuentes, Ashden Weingartner
The Redesign of an Innovative Incubator to Support Premature LifeLibertyLiberty NorthAvery Birk, Lyndee McKee
Sweep N’ SprayBlue SpringsBlue Springs SouthSamuel Bigge, Devon Schaedel, Aiden Doll
Door Lock ReminderLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyCarter VonFange, Dalton Lewis
Add-on Blind Spot SensorLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyLuke Taylor, Alec Broesder


Biomedical Research Competition

In the Biomedical Research Competition, projects were judged by medical professionals and scientists against a biomedical research rubric. The Top 10 teams were recognized during the showcase, with the top two teams receiving scholarships.

Top Project Scholarship Award: “Differences in Water Quality Between Protected Areas, Residential Areas, and Natural Rivers” by Summit Technology Academy students Emery Dietrich, Quinn Morris and Jay Tran from Lee’s Summit High School, compares water quality between residential, protected and natural river sources. The research seeks to identify contamination levels and their implications on human health and the environment to offer valuable insights on water source safety.

Top Project Scholarship Award: “The Effects of Competitive Dance on Mental Health” by Mikayla Stegner from Blue Springs High School investigates the relationship between hours spent at competitive dance practice and mental health. The study hypothesizes that more hours correlate with increased stress, anxiety, perfectionism, and a sense of community. Using an experimental approach and surveys, the study targets females aged 12 to 19 and aims to reveal the positive and negative effects of competitive dance on mental well-being.

Also recognized for placing in the top 10:

Project NameSchool DistrictSchoolTeam Members
Degradation of different polyethylene terephthalate variants by Ideonella SakaiensisLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyDania Jacub, Stella Robertson, Billy Bettis
Effect of Zinc and Collagen Supplements on the Regeneration of Planaria, Girardia tigrinaNorth Kansas CityStaley High SchoolEmory McClendon
The Effects of Aluminum Orthopedic Applications on the Development of OsteomalaciaBlue SpringsBlue Springs South High SchoolKorryn Van Acker
Validity of the Garmin Vivofit 4 in Assessing Sleep in Children with Sleep DisturbancesKansas City KansasSumner AcademySara Sadeghi
The Effect of the Concentration and the Amount of Time Exposed to Melatonin on Lactobacillus PlantarumLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyLacey Bishop, Maya Binder, Meredith Cole
The Effect of Excess Retinol on Drosophila Melanogaster DevelopmentLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyJulie Gannon, Kenna Marling, Luke Colbert
Effects of Tartrazine on Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Colony GrowthLee’s SummitSummit Technology AcademyDavis Freeman, Shaylee Stangl, Tyra Ray
Universal Blood DropsLibertyLiberty North High SchoolEkaterina Theoharidis, Grace Castle
The Effect of Blue Light on Eye StrainKansas City KansasSumner AcademyVanessa Hernandez Valdez, Jose Del Valle, Cristian Ramirez, Ryan Hoback

Clean Water Award

Students competing in the Clean Water & Sanitation Competition were asked to consider how might we improve the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for people by making progress toward one of six targets in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The winning team of Raytown South High School students Vincent Allen, Dyllan Allen and Isaac Shields designed a Microplastic Agricultural Filter as an affordable and user-friendly method for farmers and homeowners to eliminate microplastics and PFAS from polluted groundwater used in agriculture across the United States. By addressing this critical issue, their solution contributes to safeguarding the health of crops, livestock, and people from the adverse effects of water contamination.

Sustainability Award

Dillan Lesh and Robert Birdsong from the Independence School District’s Truman High School received the Sustainability Challenge Award, which asks students to seek solutions to environmental issues facing our region. The project’s focus is on analyzing and enhancing existing CO2 emission reduction methods for personal vehicles. The objective is to create innovative solutions for capturing, storing, or converting CO2 emissions, while simultaneously promoting the adoption of electric vehicles to achieve a more sustainable and eco-friendly transportation future.

Public Health Award

The Public Health Challenge invited students to imagine how we might improve people’s health and well-being through the lens of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for eliminating poverty and tackling climate change. Award winners Alex Ly and John Elrodd Guiriba from Liberty North High School focused on creating a gene therapy solution for Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disorder impacting lung and pancreas function. By utilizing modified viral vectors to deliver the normal gene and Cas9 protein to targeted cells, the treatment aims to edit the genes responsible for the condition and provide a potential cure.

Innovator Awards

The Innovator Awards recognize the innovativeness and marketability of an idea and students’ passion and ability to communicate their ideas. Mentors from the business community and local entrepreneurs worked with Startland Education to determine the top 10 innovators by listening to their pitches during the showcase and choosing which projects they would invest in. Projects recognized during the event:

Sydney Robbins, Blue Springs High School, for her research into improving concussion diagnosis efficiency

Grace Castle and Ekaterina Theoharidis, Liberty North High School, inventors of Universal Blood Drops. 

Emma Yun, Blue Springs High School, for her project “Creation Improved Cheer Shoes” 

Kathleen Geolas, Cedar Trails Exploration Center (CTEC), for her “Middle Ear Prosthesis Advancements” project 

Lyndee McKee and Avery Birk, Liberty North High School, for The Redesign of an Innovative Incubator to Support Premature Life. 

Samantha Herron and Luis Montanez, Shawnee Mission Center for Academic Achievement, developers of Nasa Lunar Work Table #1

Erandi Rameriez, Center for Academic Achievement, inventor of the Airtight Plant Container

Dillan Lesh and Robert Birdsong, Truman High School, inventors of the Automotive Exhaust CO2 Filter.

Kaedynn Tong, Shawnee Mission Center for Academic Achievement, for Robotics Research and Development. 

Abigail Webster, Kaden Ellertson, and Alexander Abbot, Summit Technology Academy, for their Indicating Pill Box project


Make It REAL Scholarships

The Make It REAL Scholarship is granted to students who apply by submitting either a video or an essay reflecting on their four-year journey with Project Lead The Way courses and their culminating capstone project. The scholarship can be used to further their education or to advance their projects.

Recipients included:

BrettWiningarFort Osage High School
TyDayVan Horn High School / Independence
EllaFrankStaley High School / North Kansas City
JZohnPouncilRuskin High School / Hickman Mills
EmersonBrooksFort Osage High School
AlexandriaHayesBlue Springs High School
SaraSadeghiSumner Academy of Arts and Science / Kansas City Kansas
AdrianaMorfinRuskin High School / Hickman Mills
MadisonKoesterMill Valley High School / DeSoto USD 232
KorrynVan AckerBlue Springs South High School


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