The presentations have been given and the final votes tallied and once again, Point Pleasant Borough High School teacher Nick Gattuso’s students have come out on top in the annual Steam Tank Challenge, a student invention competition created and sponsored by New Jersey School Boards Association and the U.S. Army.
Modeled after the popular “Shark Tank” television series, the STEAM Tank Challenge helps promote innovative STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education initiatives taking place in New Jersey schools. For the Challenge, teams of students are encouraged to invent something new, modify an existing product, or identify a situation or problem that needs resolution.
Initially launched at the NJSBA’s Workshop 2016, the Challenge was such a success that NJSBA expanded it to include three regional competitions, where projects are evaluated by a panel of judges who determine which projects will advance to the state level of the competition. Four hundred total projects were submitted for consideration for the 2018 regionals, which were held across New Jersey earlier this year.
Teams of students presented their design or concept for a panel of judges, who narrowed the field to six winning teams from each of the three regional competitions.
“We had eight of 14 total apps submitted selected for the Central Jersey Regional competition, which took place Feb. 16 at Camp Evans in Belmar,” said Mr. Gattuso. “From those eight, three were named finalists in the 2018 state competition. They’ll be presented at the NJSBA Workshop 2018, where they’ll be among 18 total projects created by students in grades 9-12 competing to win the Third Annual STEAM Tank Challenge.”
The three apps that achieved finalist standing for the 2018 competition include PALS Lunch Buddy; the PALS Shopping Simulator; and Bridge Block.
PALS Lunch Buddy
Developed by students Theresa Cardone, Luke Boylan, Jaspreet Kaur and Adrian Wittmann, PALS Lunch Buddy was designed to promote inclusion by connecting special needs students with general education classmates to sit with during lunchtime. Simply by pressing a button, a special education student can send a message to one of the dozens of general education students that have signed up for the program, notifying the recipients that they need a buddy to sit with during that day’s lunch period.
PALS Shopping Simulator
The primary goal of the Life Skills program is to provide students with multiple disabilities with the skills necessary to achieve increased personal independence beyond high school. Instruction focuses on teaching practical academic and vocational skills that support independent living. The PALS Shopping Simulator aligns with the program’s goal by providing special needs students with a unique tool that mimics the grocery shopping experience.
Developed by Evan Frederickson, Jesse Piccione, Gabe Eaton, Jake Brzyski, Lucas Grebe, and Gabrielle LaFalce, the PALS Shopping Simulator provides students utilizing the app with a mock grocery list. The students must navigate through the virtual supermarket – which features a layout consistent with where the students take their weekly shopping trips - adding the indicated items from their list to their cart. As the students correctly add items to their cart, they are simultaneously checked off their shopping list.
“The continued development of the PALS suite of applications for the multiply disabled students promotes personal independence while facilitating successful community integration among students with multiple disabilities,” said Supervisor of Pupil Personnel Services Rita Miller. “The PALS apps are providing our students with multiple disabilities with new avenues to achieve their potential, helping them to become independent members of the community.”
As any Point Pleasant resident can attest, living in a beach town can be a dream; however, there is one aspect that can sometimes make it seem more like a nightmare - the prevalence of moveable bridges – bridges that raise and lower to accommodate boat traffic. Although the erratic raisings of Point Pleasant’s two main moveable bridges – the Route 88 and Bridge Avenue Bridges – are typically considered an inevitable nuisance for most residents, they can actually have a serious implications for first responders, for whom, languishing in bridge traffic can cause delays in the administration of medical attention. It was first responders that Point Pleasant Borough High School students Matt Moran, Colton Carls, Ben Gilmore, Sam Inneo and Jackson Perry had in mind when they developed Bridge Block, the final Boro app selected to advance to the STEAM Tank Finals.
Bridge Block sends alerts to app users’ cell phones notifying them of a forthcoming bridge raising within a specified radius of their mobile device. This allows users to plan alternate routes to reach their destination.
The three teams of students will face off against each other and the other finalists in the 2018 STEAM Tank championships in October, where they’ll be judged by a panel of experts comprised of entrepreneurs, business leaders and inventors.
“The import of the work being conducted in Mr. Gattuso’s class cannot be overstated,” said Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith. “The attention they’re receiving helps emphasize to students the incredible places their programming knowledge can take them.”