Local students’ ‘Power Pivot’ project takes first-place in national STEM competition

Camas-Washougal students win top honors for innovative medical device in national REACH Challenge

A Discovery High School student shows the inner workings of the remote-controlled "Power Pivot" device created by Camas-Washougal students to help people with limited mobility rotate without having to twist their bodies, inside the Discovery High STEM lab on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Washougal High School senior Zach Ager (left) and Discovery High School teacher Bruce Whitefield (right) discuss a new home health care device created by Camas-Washougal students inside Discovery High's STEM lab on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Silvia Pujol, 13, a freshman at Discovery High School (left) and Jack Harding, 15, a sophomore at Discovery High (right) discuss the work that went into creating their Power Pivot health care device inside Discovery High's STEM lab on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

(Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Taryn Cavill, 14, an eighth-grader at Odyssey Middle School, demonstrates the Power Pivot device inside the Discovery High School's STEM lab on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

A group of local robotics students have taken first-place in a national STEM competition.

The Camas-based robotics team — Team 2471, also known as “Team Mean Machine” — recently entered their Power Pivot(TM) medical device in the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA)’s national REACH Challenge.

On Feb. 10, the Camas-Washougal students learned they’d won the top prize for the sturdy, portable, battery-powered disc Team 2471 crafted to help people with limited mobility be able to rotate while standing — moving from a walker to a chair or bed, for example — without having to twist their body and risk additional injury.

In December 2021, the students, along with Discovery High School teacher Bruce Whitefield and Brian Cavill, the robotics team’s lead mentor, explained how the group had taken a real-world problem and, utilizing Discovery High’s state-of-the-art STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workshop, created an affordable medical device for home use.

“The Power Pivot has been an amazing opportunity for team members to come forward to learn and use their skills while creating something that can really help a lot of people,” Zach Ager, vice president of the Team 2471 robotics team, said in 2021.

According to the ITEEA, the annual REACH Challenge competition asks middle school, high school and college-level students to create an innovative project that “uses their STEM skills for social good, making a real-world difference in the lives of those around them.”

This year’s REACH Challenge awarded students from 11 states for everything from the Power Pivot to a therapeutic glove that helps people with Raynaud’s, a syndrome that causes decreased blood flow to the fingers, and the “AbleTable” for preschoolers with fine-motor skills challenges.

“I am absolutely blown away by these students’ innovations,” ITEEA Executive Director Kelly Dooley stated in the ITEEA’s news release about the REACH Challenge winners. “We couldn’t be more excited to honor these teams for their accomplishments.”

Gavin Wood, a STEM educator who partnered with ITEEA to develop REACH Challenge, added that the annual competition is a “win-win for everyone involved.”

“This project really is life changing, not only for the person receiving the adaptive technology, but for the students and their teachers as well,” Wood stated.

The ITEEA will present the awards in-person and virtually March 9-12, in Orlando, Florida.

As winners, the Power Pivot team earned a $1,000 STEM grant, a $100 gift card from Harbor Freight and Maker Maven STEM supplies.