By Bill Cooney
Daily Iowan

For the second year in a row, students from Iowa City West have had the chance to test their engineering and science prowess on the national level.

The Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science is a national competition evaluating students’ abilities in math, engineering and science, said Dominic Audia, a West High teacher and coach for the competition.

The competition took place from June 29 to July 2 in Grapevine, Texas, a Dallas suburb, and consisted of four different parts, including an essay written beforehand, an oral presentation, math and engineering problems, and a hands-on activity.

West High sent three teams of eight to the national competition, and Northwest Junior High also sent three teams of eight.

“The students picked their own teams,” Audia said. “A lot of them were have been in the competition before, and they know what they’re good at and who works well together.”

The teams from West High placed sixth and seventh nationally at the competition out of more than 30 teams.

“The national competition only takes the teams that placed first in their state,” Audia said. “We had to win the statewide competition in March and qualified for nationals there.”

Akash Borde, who graduated from West this spring, said writing the essay portion was included in the team’s preparation for the competition.

“We got to work basically right as school ended,” he said. “The essay portion of the competition we had to have emailed to the judges by June 10.”

West High sophomore Chirag Jain said there was a lot of preparation to do in order to get ready for the competition.

“Our preparation beforehand was pretty vigorous,” Jain said. “We met for several hours every day in June.”

Once the teams got to the competition, the members participated in the oral presentation focused on the topic of renewable energy, West High sophomore Niki Alden said.

“It was probably my favorite part of the competition,” Alden said. “We had to pick between two fake towns, one in Utah and one in Rhode Island, and give them a renewable power source, based on their location and available resources.”

West High students were well-prepared for the hands-on portion of the competition, Jain said.

“The object was to construct a wind turbine,” he said. “This was the same as in state, so we felt pretty well-prepared for that.”

The power output of the wind turbines was measured by putting them in front of a fan and measuring the voltage the turbine produced, Audia said.

Audia, who teaches some STEM classes at West, said the teams are looking forward to next year’s competition.

“We’re lucky because of Project Lead the Way, which is the STEM program throughout the district,” he said. “A lot of the students who are involved in the competition are also taking Lead the Way classes.”

Audia said he thinks this in a direct correlation of Project Lead the Way, which started in 2007, and the increase in enrollment at the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering.

“It’s definitely a big factor,” he said. “It’s nice to have a pipeline like this that takes students from middle school to high school while learning these STEM skills.

“Hopefully, that continues to schools like the University of Iowa.”

Borde, who will attend Northwestern University in engineering starting this fall, said the project and competition played an important role in that decision for him.

“Project Lead the Way is very good at what it does,” he said. “The project and the TEAMS competition really helped shape what I want to do once I get to college.”