RHS’ Team Oso goes for repeat of championship | PostIndependent.com

RHS’ Team Oso goes for repeat of championship

Rifle High School's Team Oso prepares for the national STEM racing competition at the end of April.
Javier Garay / RHS Yearbook |

The Rifle High School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) club has nearly quadrupled in size, from four to 15, in the last year. They hope that the added bodies, skills and enthusiasm will help the team improve upon last year’s national championship in the Ten80 National STEM League Finals April 29 and 30 in Troy, New York.

But how do you improve on a national championship?

Team Oso competes in the National STEM League Racing Series. This challenge combines STEM with business and enterprise. Teams essentially own a motorsports business and follow a model similar to NASCAR, explained Rifle High School senior Alexis Ramos.

Teams have a 1:10 scale remote-controlled car and must complete driving and engineering tasks throughout the year to accumulate points to qualify for the national competition and develop their skills. They compete in areas including head-to-head races, design modifications to cars, and diagnosing mechanical issues to their cars.

“On the racing side, you have to become certified in mechanics and incorporate engineering to figure out how to design and fix the car,” explained Ramos. “We also have to become certified in driving the vehicle.”

According to Ten80 Education, race points account for only one-third of a team’s total. Like professional race teams, Team Oso must also have a strong research and development focus (Data-Driven Design and car modifications), marketing strategy and work toward becoming leaders in their communities. Team members develop a marketing plan to cultivate sponsorships for their car. This is the component that Team Oso excelled at last year earning a national championship. Their community outreach program is a STEM club for younger students on Fridays.

“The STEM for kids classes are really about getting kids interested in science,” explained Rifle High School senior Javier Garay. “If kids don’t like science, or don’t see the connections early, they may not like science growing up.”

Team Oso began last year when former physics teacher David Ziegler took some students to Denver to begin learning about STEM programs offered through Ten80 Education.

“There were Denver Broncos’ cheerleaders at the event talking about how they use STEM every day in their world through kinesiology and movement. You wouldn’t think that cheerleaders would use skills in STEM. Going to the Ten80 event taught us that STEM really impacts everyone,” explained Garay.

Garay and Ramos, along with team sponsor Nick Sawyers, are confident that their business and enterprise presentations will continue to be strong. They also believe that Team Oso will improve its standing in the racing tasks.

“This year, I feel more confident because we have more team members and more input so we can evaluate where we had challenges and continue to improve,” explained Ramos. “We have new members that have more experience in racing and working on RC cars. I feel our chances are a lot higher.”

On the automotive side, they will compete in a 5-minute best lap competition, a 10-minute most laps competition and a 45-minute endurance race (most laps in 45 minutes with a functioning car).

The careers that Ramos and Garay are considering are deeply tied to STEM skills — orthopedic surgery and astronomy for Ramos and sound engineering for Garay. Both say that everyone needs more STEM in their worlds.

“The musician or the artist may not know about or care about the science behind the music or the art, but the science definitely impacts the music and the art,” explained Garay. “Maybe it is the knowledge of STEM that makes the guitar sound better.”

Seven members of Team Oso, two chaperones, and their RC car will head to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — one of the oldest technological universities in the world — in Troy, New York, the end of April for the two-day national competition where they will compete against about 80 other teams to defend their title.