Sensis engineers annual student contest

High school students to design small car in competition

Sensis Corp. in East Syracuse kicked off its eighth annual high school engineering contest Feb. 6, attracting more than 70 eager students to participate in this year's challenge, which was disclosed on Friday. Activities involved demonstrations, presentations and discussion, as well as a tour of Sensis and meeting their mentors.

"This is a phenomenal [chance] for students to get exposed to the engineering profession," said John Clate, Sensis employee and lead mentor for the contest. "It gives them the opportunity to go through an eight-week cycle that shows them what it's like to be an engineer."

The 2009 problem statement involves area high school and home-schooled students to design, construct and demonstrate a small car using a predetermined set of materials to achieve specific goals. The cars they are to produce must meet stringent requirements for size, weight and method of propulsion. Come contest day in April, students will demonstrate how far and straight their cars will go. Winners will be determined by a weighted score based on design, adherence to guidelines and performance.

"I like working with practical, logical mathematics and science stuff," said student Jotham Adams who is home-schooled.

Adams said he hopes to obtain more problem-solving skills through this program in order to become the electrician he aspires to be, "which is somewhat close to an engineer," he said.

"Sensis is concerned and passionate about giving back to the community," he said, noting that employees who counsel these students are volunteers; any hours lost to mentoring during the work day must be made up on their own time.

Their dedication, in fact, proves fruitful.

While Sensis has brought in several co-ops (similar to interns) since the program's inception in 2001, last year was the first time, due to the program's cycle, that the company hired a former contest student.

"It's working," said Sensis employee Rob Conrad about the program.

Sensis Corporation is a global provider of air defense, air traffic control, airline and airport operations management, and data integration and distribution.

Participating high schools:

C.W. Baker High School, Baldwinsville

Chittenango High School

Jamesville-DeWitt High School

Manlius Pebble Hill School

Westhill High School

Cazenovia High School

G. W. Fowler High School

Liverpool High School

Oswego High School

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