Seven high school students from the Mount Olive Ministries’ Robotic Program (Hao Dang, Mariah Duckworth, Hannah Dukette, Antawn Easterling, Hannah Love, Alana Peden, and Marquivous Sims) loaded the ministry’s bus with water tower engineering equipment, overnight clothes, and many good-byes and “do well” encouragements from classmates and family members.

The students competed in The University of Mississippi’s annual Engineering Design Competition for high-school students sponsored by the university’s School of Engineering, the Center for Mathematics and Science Education on February 24th.

For two 17-year-old students (Hao Dang and Antawn Easterling) from Mount Olive Attendance Center, the event has already impacted their lives.  Easterling received notification on Monday March 26th that he has been accepted into the University of Mississippi Engineering Program. He will be majoring in electrical engineering. He says being a part of the Mount Olive Ministries’ Robotic Program influenced his decision. Two weeks later, Dang was accepted into the University of Mississippi Engineering Program as well.  Toward the end of the Water Tower Competition, Scott Kilpatrick (Assistant Dean for Student Services, School of Engineering at The University of Mississippi) approached both Dang and Easterling about the opportunity of receiving scholarship funds for the Engineering Program.

Approximately 10 to 15 high school teams compete each year in the competition designed to help students understand how math and science correlates to real-world problems.

“We want to introduce some of the basic concepts of the engineering profession to high school students,” explained Kilpatrick. “Hopefully through this competition the students can gain more of a basic knowledge of what it is like to work on an engineering project and have fun working in a team environment.”

“It showed me how to come together and work as a team rather than on your own,” said Easterling.  “After returning from the competition, I encouraged other students to join the program,” said Dang.  “I really enjoyed experiencing what civil engineering is about.  It opened my eyes for what’s in store for my future.”

For 17-year-old Alana Peden, John O’Haver, professor of chemical engineering and the associate dean for academic and student affairs for The University of Mississippi, offered Peden a summer job with the university’s engineering department, which partners with Mount Olive Ministries’ Robotic Program.

Peden and her team members (Hannah Love and Antawn Easterling), won second and third place in the categories of performance and design, respectively.  “It was a difficult competition that required a lot of skills,” said Peden. “My teammates and I practiced and did studies with our instructors. While it was hard, I’m happy we placed.”  “My Robotics and tutoring instructor, Ray Holt, helped me with math and to prepare for the ACT test.  My math score increased from a C to an A and I have had the opportunities to be introduced to several colleges and college officials,” said Peden.

This was the first time for all participating students from Mount Olive Ministries to compete in a competition.  “I had a great time competing and next year we will win one of the overall awards,” said Love.

The second team (Mariah Duckworth, Hao Dang, Marquivous Sims and Hannah Dukette) also won first place in performance and third place in a challenge during the February competition.   “I am glad I did not drop the Robotic class now,” said Sims.  Two years ago, Sims did not see or understand the benefits of the program.  With two years before graduating, Sims and Duckworth are already position themselves for a college career.   “The competition exposed our strengths and weaknesses against other high school students,” said Duckworth.  “It has challenged me to become more of a problem solver which has benefited me in the classroom.  My grades for this upcoming progress report will be all A’s,” said Duckworth.  “I learned and found out a lot that I didn’t know before,” said Dukette.  “It was a good hand on experience to what engineering is really like.”

Their performances and work caught the eye of officials.

“It was apparent to me that the Mount Olive team had a strong commitment to this project.  The water tower structures that they created were very impressive. We could tell that they put hours of work into them.  We threw everything we had at their structures and they withstood the testing,” said Kilpatrick.

Their wins come on the heels of high ranks earned by the students only two months earlier during the Robotics Alliance of Mississippi State Robotics Competition held at Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Tony C. Duckworth, Sr. MOM president, is happy to see students taking advantage of the program. Students are also positioned for scholarship opportunities.

“They are excelling,” said Duckworth.  “In this particular competition, the students were up against other students who had been participating in this competition for five years.  To see them earn first, second, and third place rankings in various categories the first year for them to compete makes me anticipate their next competition.”

Retired engineer, Bill Blain, Sr. who founded The Blain Companies, is a volunteer instructor.  He met with the students once or twice a week for ten weeks helping the students prepare for the competition.

“It was a pretty good experience for everybody,” says Blain.  “The competition and the program helps give the students an understanding about what engineering is and what engineers do.”

Both teams broke the competition’s five-year record for their construction of a water tower that withstood adverse testing. Their structure also garnered them third place in strength and cost effectiveness.



Category: Ole Miss Competitions