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Kids Exercise STEM Skills in Fun-Filled CPEP Challenge Day Event

By Barbara Bresnahan | HARTFORD, Conn., July 2, 2013

Just as the name suggests, CPEP, Catalysts Powering Educational Performance, is a program that serves as a catalyst to increase children's interest and attitude towards future careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. CPEP, a 501(c)(3) organization, is an out-of-school program with an emphasis on under-represented, urban youth. The program is supported by CPEP staff, volunteers, mentors, partners and investors, including UTC and Pratt & Whitney.

Recently, dozens of volunteers from UTC and Pratt & Whitney were on hand to ensure the success of the annual CPEP Challenge. The event was held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford as part of the larger Student Innovation Expo 2013. The enormous "B" hall of the center was filled with hundreds of excited kids, all showing off and testing projects they made starting last September. The UTC and Pratt & Whitney volunteers were part of a group of STEM professionals, including engineers, teachers, scientists and business leaders, who acted as the day's judges.

CPEP project categories included Electric Air-Powered Boats, Mousetrap-Powered Vehicles, Magnetic Levitation Vehicles (Maglev), Lake Compounce Roller Coaster Design, an Egg Drop Package Contest, Rube Goldberg Machine Design and several "spontaneous" events, including chess matches, "Minute-to-Win-It" races, dance contests and video gaming.

Opening ceremonies began at 9 a.m. followed by the various CPEP challenges. Two time trials were conducted for each project, allowing time in between to modify or make repairs. Judging and scoring criteria differed based on the project. Mousetrap-powered vehicles, for instance, were required to travel 30 meters in a 1-meter wide track. Vehicle distance to the center line played a role in determining the winners. Roller coasters, however, included points for overall appearance, structural stability and other factors.

All in all, CPEP Challenge Day was a wonderful success, which culminated with a rousing CPEP rendition of the Harlem Shake, which was video taped and featured approximately 500 children. The awards ceremony followed at 2 p.m.

For more information about CPEP and its participating communities, visit them online at www.cpep.org.

Photo Credits:

Barbara Bresnahan

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Several UTC volunteers judged the Egg Drop competition during Celebrate CPEP Day at the Connecticut Convention Center. Students who competed explored various methods of reducing the force of impact on the egg packages they created. Pictured from left to right are UTC's David Kane, Spencer Dew, Mario Borbas, Matt Leung and Karim Kamareddine.

Photo 2, 3: One of the most colorful and fun projects being tested at CPEP Day was the Lake Compounce Roller Roaster challenge. Students explained and demonstrated Newton's Laws of motion, inertia, momentum, speed, energy transfer, potential energy, kinetic energy and circular motion with the Lake Compounce-themed roller coasters they created from prefabricated CPEP kits.

Photo 4: Everton Palmer, a guest judge from Pratt & Whitney, explains the judging process to Julien Matrullo and Daniel Lu, who created a jungle-esque "Jaguar Joyride" roller coaster. The students are from Turn of River Middle School in Stamford.

Photo 5: Manelle Samuels of UTC and Dionne Henry of Pratt & Whitney volunteer their time and expertise at the expo.

Photo 6: Shenitha Holley and Katwren Anderson-Freeman of UTC Aerospace Systems test a student's magnetic levitation vehicle during the CPEP Day at the Connecticut Convention Center. Students had the choice of creating "Maglev" vehicles that propelled by rubber bands, electric motors, wind or gravity power.

Photo 7: Pratt & Whitney volunteer Shakira Ramos (right), who was accompanied by her mother, Aida Fernandez-Ramos, gives pointers to young Khal Fani on his magnetic levitation vehicle (Maglev). Fani, who used a prefabricated CPEP kit, designed, constructed and tested his Maglev, which transported two passengers down an 8 foot-long slope.

Photo 8: Volunteer judge Mario Borbas of Pratt & Whitney tests a youngster's egg drop package during the CPEP Day celebration at the Connecticut Convention Center. Students designed and fabricated shock-absorbing containers and explained the concepts of mass, acceleration, constant speed, terminal speed and balanced and unbalanced forces to the judges.

Photo 9: Once through with their CPEP Day challenges in the adjoining room, students gathered for a very large and rowdy version of the Harlem Shake.