EAST MANATEE -- Given the task to design and build a functional model water tower, about 150 fifth-graders stepped up to the challenge in a Florida Section of American Water Works Association-sponsored competition.
The students from eight Manatee County elementary schools arrived at Freedom Elementary School early Saturday morning with excitement and anticipation to find out if their entry will meet the strict standards to win one of the six trophies.
"I'm going to be an engineer," said 11-year-old Timothy Liaros, a fifth-grader at Freedom Elementary when asked why he entered the competition. "I enjoy drawing and architecture."
Timothy also said he was influenced by his uncle, who is an architect-engineer working for a company building the new Twin Towers in New York City.
For his teammate, Ashleigh Stout, 11, it was the challenge of completing the project that got her to enter.
"I kind of thought it would be a really, really fun thing to do," Ashleigh said, "but also it was a goal to be met and I wanted to achieve that goal."
Fellow fifth-grader Mackenzie Ramalho, 11, helped Timothy and Ashleigh build the water tower, which they named Galaxy and decorated it with stars and planets.
Danielle Marler and Hanna Bradley, both 11, and fifth-graders at Abel Elementary School, named their entry Wipeout because it looked like a punching bag, and had swinging doors and turning wheels.
But they had the engineering and science to back up
all the extras pointing out the venting hole that allows air into the tank to force the water out the bottom.
"She loves engineering kinds of stuff," said Kim Marler, Danielle's mother. "Anything that makes the mind go."
This was the sixth year the competition was heldin the school district, but only the second year atthe elementary schoollevel, said Debbie Smith,Inspiring ElementaryEducation teacher at Freedom Elementary, and coordinator for this year's competition.
The district's InspiringElementary Education,or IE2, curriculum teaches students from kindergarten through fifth grade basic engineering principles, Smith said.
It is now being used in 10 district elementary schools.
Prine Elementary School teams won the top three places in the competition and will go on to the state trials.
Seton Katz, chair of the Region X Florida Section of American Water Works Association Youth Education Committee and an employee with the Sarasota County Public Works Department, said he wanted to get elementary schools on board with the competition.
"It's important for kids to get involved," Katz said.
"Most of them don't know about the kinds of professions needed to get clean water to their house."
The competitors must build the water towers to strict specifications, such as design, hydraulics, weight, height and cost.
They are assessed points for various amounts they go over the standards, and the entry with the lowest points is the winner.
The contest also educates the students in the importance of reliable drinking water.