2015 PA State STEM Design Challenge


The 2nd Annual Pennsylvania State STEM Design Challenge finals were held on May 6th at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. Sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific, Harrisburg University and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU3), the STEM Design Challenge was started five years ago to promote STEM Education in the Pittsburgh area.

Last year, the design challenge was launched state-wide where more than 2000 students participated in regional competitions before the winners headed to the state finals. This year’s challenge was even larger and included 22 competitions hosted by the Intermediate Units with more than 3000 students competing!


This year’s challenge was to create a structure from K’NEX® that would move a ping pong ball a distance of four feet. Structures had to use at least one motor and be built in a two-hour period. The teams of four also had to present blueprints, a narrative, and prepare a two minute presentation to the judges. Students were judged on their design, narrative, blueprint, teamwork, creativity, and presentation. The student’s creativity shone in this challenge; Judges saw designs like a set of Ferris wheels, a pinball game, bridges, recycling centers and many more innovative structures.

As the market for STEM careers grows, events like the Design Challenge are vital to encouraging young minds to think outside the box. Jill Jones, general manager of Fisher Science Education said “It is our hope that these children will one day be our employees or our customers, making the discoveries that change the world. Everything is circular, and it all connects through this program.”

For photos from the day, please be sure to visit our Facebook page.

Thermo Fisher Scientific PA State STEM Design Challenge Winners

Grades 4-5

1st Place

Octorara Intermediate School – IU 24

2nd Place

Holy Trinity Catholic School – IU 3

3rd Place

Cranberry Elementary – IU 6

Honorable Mentions

  • Blackhawk School District – IU 27
  • Trinity East Elementary School – IU 1

Grades 6-8

1st Place

East Vincent Elementary School – IU 24

2nd Place

Orefield Middle School – IU 21

3rd Place

St Mary’s Area Middle School – IU 9

Honorable Mentions

  • Nazareth Intermediate – IU 20
  • Hampton – IU 3