Upper and lower school students are using design thinking and engineering skills to develop entries for Burns and McDonnell’s Battle of the Brains contest.
They are vying for the chance to create a permanent science museum exhibit and claim a $50,000 prize. Battle of the Brains is a K-12 STEM competition involving more that 540 student design teams, 300 schools and 60 districts in Kansas and Missouri. The winning team will work with Burns and McDonnell professionals to see their idea come to life as a hands-on exhibit at Science City inside Union Station.
This year, students in two Barstow divisions are participating in the immersive, project-based educational opportunity. Although the entry itself is under wraps until its submitted to Battle of the Brains, upper school students in the Engineering Design and Robotics class have chosen a topic, brainstormed the design of interactive exhibits within their theme and begun work on a scale 3D model to be used in video and photos.
On Thursday, Oct. 3, students gave a pitch to professional experience designer and Barstow parent Cynthia Sharpe. Sharpe used her expertise to offer feedback and help students solve potential design problems and issues with their concept, budget and presentation. They’ll use her guidance and feedback to make improvements to their entry before the submission deadline on Oct. 22.
The contest runs on a two-year cycle to allow time for judging and exhibit construction. In 2017, Barstow EDR students earned a coveted Top 20 Finalist berth.
This time around, lower school engineers are also getting involved in Battle of the Brains. Students in grades 4 and 5 are working with science teacher Amie Buckner and STEAM teacher Ashley Wiles. Classes voted on the idea they would pursue, then split into small groups to work on how to build it and what to include.
“They are just about finished with their exhibit proposal and perfecting the designs,” Buckner said. “Then we will merge all exhibit descriptions and design sketches into one proposal and work on the video that sells their idea.”
Mentors have also come to work with the lower school students to give them guidance on the process. Students had the opportunity to share ideas and get input from former Burns and McDonnell Chairman and CEO Greg Graves, a Barstow trustee, and engineers Brent Wells and Barstow parent Preeti Iyer.  

The key learning components at each divisional level are the 21st century skills at the heart of Barstow’s signature STEAM program: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication and problem solving.
Once projects are finalized, submitted and judged, twenty finalists will be announced in November. After a public voting period, the winner will be announced at Union Station on Dec. 4.
    • Cynthia Sharpe shared her experise as an experience designer with EDR students.

    • Students gave Sharpe their pitch on Thursday, Oct. 4.

    • Barstow parent Preeti Iyer and Brent Wells, Burns and McDonnell engineers, spoke with the fourth and fifth grade classes about their work.

    • Former Chairman and CEO Greg Graves also made a visit.

The Barstow School

11511 State Line Road • Kansas City, MO 64114
P (816) 942-3255 • F (816) 942-3227