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Governor’s School 3rd Annual Shelly STEM Challenge Names “Parking Garage Storm Water Challenge” Winners

Group 7 Winners: Mattew Scarlatesu, Roanoke Valley; Luke Suess, Roanoke Valley; Hunter Schockley, Piedmont; Jenna Velasquez, Blue Ridge and three judges from Burns and McDonnell.

On Saturday, October 20, 2018, RVGS hosted the 3rd Annual Shelly STEM Challenge. Eight Governor’s Schools from across Virginia brought 40 students to participate in a STEM Challenge developed in collaboration with industry partner, Burns & McDonnell Engineering. RVGS Director Mark Levy and Burns & McDonnell engineer Brandyn Turley opened the event by reiterating the importance of working in diverse teams to solve real-world problems.

This was the first time that the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School invited other Governor’s Schools to participate.  Teams were comprised of students from different schools and the interschool collaboration was exciting to see.  Mr. Levy shared, “When we first established the Shelly STEM Challenge, I had always intended to eventually open the door to other schools, and I’m thrilled to see that come to fruition.”  The visiting students and schools reciprocated the enthusiasm to come together for the event.  Dr. Robert Johnson, the Director of Piedmont Governor’s School in Martinsville, said “This is our first STEM Challenge and I hope to participate in next year’s challenge as well. This is a great experience for our students.”

Mr. Levy explained the challenge and objective to students: To manage and remediate stormwater associated with a parking garage construction project. The object was to improve the efficiency of DEQ-mandated stormwater management by removing runoff pollutants from rainwater as it moved through the gutter downspouts. There were three primary criteria for the students to consider as they worked – effectiveness in removing target pollutants, ability to handle required amounts of rainwater, and cost/feasibility of the project.

The eight groups were judged on the three components, and Group 7 was named the winner. According to the Burns & McDonnell judges, their design had the best approach and creativity to handling the flow of water during peak rains, which they accomplished by using a weighted diverter valve.

Luke Suess, an RVGS student and member of Group 7 indicated that this was a great experience, which involved lots of challenges. He said, “it was good working with other teams, and working on two different solutions to problems – chemistry-based and more mechanically based, which ended up performing better.” The other members of Group 7 were Hunter Shockley (Piedmont Governor’s School); Matthew Scarlatescu (Roanoke Valley Governor’s School), and Jenna Velasquez (Blue Ridge Governor’s School).

The second placed winners, Group 6, also received praise and feedback from the Burns & McDonnell judges. “Group 6 used an analytical approach to solving the problem. Using analysis to determine why each of their attempted solutions failed, they would have successfully corrected them if they had more time.” Burns & McDonnell’s judges indicated that they were impressed with the overall designs and the creativity of each group. They were also “impressed with the students ability to effectively communicate the engineering aspects of the challenge. It was exciting to see high school students who had little real-world engineering experience  envisioned how technology could enhance their designs. ”

About Roanoke Valley Governor’s School

Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for Science and Technology is a half-day regional public STEM school for motivated students in grades nine through twelve. The Governor’s School accepts students from seven school districts around the Roanoke Valley, including Bedford, Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, and Roanoke counties, and the cities of Roanoke and Salem. Admission is selective. Parents do not pay a fee for their students to attend; costs are covered by the school districts and the Virginia Department of Education. For more information, please visit the school’s website at or contact the school’s director, Mark Levy, or the school’s guidance counselor, Kathy Sebolt, at 540.853.2116.

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