After a year off, STEAM competition back bigger than ever


A picture of Shaler Area team from 2018 STEAM competition.

Aidan Brophy

After a year-long hiatus due to COVID, Shaler Area’s Annual STEAM Competition will return this year with a blast from the past. The event, which will feature an 80s theme, will be held March 4 at Shaler Area HS. With more than thirty teams from across Pittsburgh, this year’s competition is set to be the biggest to date.

Shaler will be fielding two teams this year and they will be facing some tough competition, with teams coming in from Moon, Mars, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Fox Chapel, and more. Some schools will be coming from even further away including Bentworth, driving roughly an hour to get to SAHS.

While the actual date of the event is still many days away, the race for first place has, in a sense, already begun. A major part of the competition is the build-at-home project.

According to Maggie Rea, a member one of the Shaler teams, progress has been slow but steady on their build-at-home challenge.

“Mathematically it should work, but I don’t know how much friction there’s going to be,” she said.

This year teams must construct a functioning lawn dart thrower, in keeping with the 80s theme.

According to Mr. Greg Mason, co-head of the Science Club and one of the organizers of the STEAM Competition, “launching things is nice, because there’s so many different ways that you can launch things…they’re kinda the same, but they’re also very different in terms of engineering challenges.” He said he had the idea for a lawn dart launcher over the summer, and the 80s theme flowed naturally from there.

I enjoy seeing groups of schools coming together from around the region…just watching those teams compete and do things together from different places.

— Mr. Paul Stadelman

Of course, the challenges teams will be facing have been kept close to the vest by organizers. When asked, Mr. Mason said that “some of the other challenges are 80s themed, but I can’t give too much away.”

The STEAM Competition is a serious undertaking, involving teachers from various departments, including the science, art, math, GATE, and tech ed departments. Two of the other main organizers of the event are Mr. Paul Stadelman and Mrs. Mindy Thiel.

According to Mr. Stadelman, one of the main challenges of organizing the event this year is that, “pre-COVID, we weren’t as worried about the logistics of things like lunch, and feeding the teams, and the potential of us being a school that could have more safety requirements in relation to COVID…than some other schools that may be attending.”

Additionally, the sheer number of participating teams compared to previous years has been “…a little bit more of a logistical task,” he said.

However, despite these hurdles, the organizers are looking forward to the event.

“Watching students problem-solve and struggle…they have a little bit of a mental struggle, and then they have the ‘A-ha!’ moments, where the ideas, the epiphanies come across,” Mr. Mason said. “I think that’s cool.”

Stadelman will enjoy a different aspect of the competition.

“I enjoy seeing groups of schools coming together from around the region…just watching those teams compete and do things together from different places,” he said. “It pulls everybody together into one big pool, and kind of gives you students a chance to see that these are the people that will be going to school with you somewhere else. These are people that will be going to college with you.”

After a year off and with so much planning, those involved are most anticipating the event itself.

“I’m looking forward to it coming back. I’m looking forward to it happening,” Stadelman said. “I guess I kinda feel with everything changing as much as it has over the last couple years…I’m looking forward to this just happening.”