Mind A-Mazes 2015: As the Pendulum Swings

The annual KPBSD Mind A-Mazes borough meet was held Saturday, October 10, 2015, at Soldotna Prep School. Mind A-Mazes is a yearly challenge created and facilitated by the district Quest (gifted and talented) program to engage teams of students in fourth through twelfth grade with a hands-on engineering challenge. Teamwork, creative thinking, and problem solving are required. Nearly 40 teams from schools around the peninsula traveled to Soldotna to participate in the meet and check out the different ideas and devices that other teams created for the 2015 challenge. Teams came from Homer, Nikolaevsk, K-Beach Elementary, Tustumena Elementary, Soldotna, Kenai, Nikiski, Seward, and Hope!

Junior Division:

  • 1st – Seward Middle School "KTW" - Tommy Cronin, Wren Dougherty, Grant Hinders
  • 2nd – Kenai Middle School "Mind A-Maniacs" - Betsy Moffett, Phoebe Thomas, Gabby Tews, Amelia Mueller
  • 3rd – Soldotna Elementary "Pendulum Guys" - Brendon Mowery, Nate Johnson, Jerrod Oberts, Nate Mowery
  • Spontaneous 1st – Kenai Middle School "Oscillation Nation" - Tyler Hippchen, Hayden Hanson, Brandiee Bowers, Hermione Lanfear
  • Judges Choice – Tustumena Elementary "Kasilof Konstructors" - Josie Sheridan, Trinity Donovan, Ivy Daly, Rodrick Smyth, Abriella Werner

Intermediate Division:

  • 1st – Hope School School "Swisheling Sickles" - River Skaaren, Liam Bureau, Ben Peck
  • 2nd – Kenai Middle School "Nerdtastic Four" - Grace Morrow, Abigail Moffett, Kaya Cox, Reyne Wong
  • 3rd – Seward Middle School "Broccoli" - Priscilla Stoltz, Kamryn Pack, Lindy Guernsey
  • Spontaneous 1st – Kenai Middle School "Smarticle Particles" - Candice Bowers, Chelsea Plagge, Michael Torkelson, Jaiden Streiff, Danielle Kjostad
  • Judges Choice – Nikiski Middle-High School "The Ballerz" - America Jeffreys, Jordyn Stock, Cecily Quiner, Kaycee Bostic

This year's main challenge was called "As the Pendulum Swings" and teams had four to five weeks to plan, design, construct, and test a device from which a pendulum could be suspended. Once set in motion, the pendulum would have two minutes in which to perform various tasks. Tasks included ringing a bell, popping an inflated glove, picking up an object, knocking over an object, and creating a drawing. Teams had to carefully consider the rules, limitations, and blog posts throughout the course of the challenge, as well as find time in and out of school to work on their devices!

After all teams shared and triggered their devices for their judges at the meet, everyone participated in a Spontaneous Challenge problem solving task for which no team could anticipate or prepare for in advance. This portion of the competition counted for 25 percent of an overall team score. In 2015, teams had less than ten minutes to plan and construct bowling pins out of identical sets of materials provided to each team. Teams were scored on the height of their pins, the quantity, and the number they were able to knock over while bowling—so each team had to decide in a short time period what scoring components to pursue.

Although some students love the competitive aspects of Mind A-Mazes, many more benefit from the experience to participate in a collaborative problem-solving challenge, develop teamwork and communication skills, and discover multiple ways to think!


Sandra Barron, Hope School math and science teacher said, "At Hope School, Mind-A-Mazes brings out the best in all of us. We love this yearly event at Soldotna Prep. The majority of our students, parents, and staff were in attendance for the third year in a row and can't wait for 2016. The organizers and volunteers should be commended for their efforts and thanked for the opportunities they provide. When it was over, several students remarked on how positive the judges were. They will always remember the man with the big smile who was so encouraging even when a device did not work as planned.

Mind-A-Mazes expands our sense of community which is very important for those of us in small schools. Each year there are more connections and familiar faces. This event not only encourages scientific thinking and problem solving, it also brings out the best in us though teamwork and cooperative efforts.

In addition, there were opportunities for students to show they have other positive traits, like good character and sportsmanship. When Hope School was called forth for winning first place in the Intermediate-Senior Division, the announcer misstated that it was the third year in a row. Liam Bureau, team captain of the "Swisheling Sickles" immediately stated concern since we earned second place in 2013. He did not want anyone to have negative feelings. That was an outstanding moment from a remarkable young man."

Hope School student participants and grade levels: Jolee Peterson-3rd; Shaylee Peterson-4th; Landon Stroh-4th; Ryder Skaaren-5th; Murphy Dykstra-5th; Wesli Dykstra-6th; Cody Fortin-Wright-6th; Alex Schell-6th; Liam Bureau-8th; River Skaaren-9th; and Ben Peck-11th.

Story contributed by Brian Bailey, Nikiski Middle-High School Quest program

Links: 2015 Mind a-Mazes blog