Students get their hands dirty at Cedar Point through new STEM event

Anywhere people have a bit of fun, we’ll probably make a bit of a mess. At amusement parks, the business is fun. That means a serious mess.

The Success Bound Innovation Faire at Cedar Point celebrated students across Ohio solving real-world problems. Thanks to a collaboration between the Ohio Department of Education, OSLN, Lorain County ESC, North Point ESC, and EHOVE, 283 students descended upon the park for a slew of real-world challenges. And of course, Cedar Point provided free tickets so students could explore the park after the activities.

Buckeye Education Systems led a Mars Rover Challenge and set students loose in a Mobile Fab Lab. Over fifty students brought projects to a Maker Fair to present their work to peers and professionals.

As part of the festivities, Heather Sherman, Ohio STEM Learning Network Director, led students on a design challenge to solve the trash problem at Cedar Point. “We are taking kids behind the scenes,” she said.

Every amusement park must have a system to deal with trash, but the roller coaster capital of the world was built on a peninsula. That means there is only one way in, or out, of the park. All of the park’s trash has to move from patrons, to trash cans, to trash cars, to trash dumpsters, to trash compactors, and all the way across the single bridge that connects the park to landfills in mainland Ohio.

This can be expensive and time consuming. Last year, 3.6 million people visit the park, generating 3,443 tons of trash. It takes 30 staffers per shift to deal with the 1,500 trash cans and 120 dumpsters across the park. Each ton of trash costs the park $51, totaling over $150,000 last year alone.

“They have some inefficiencies with their refuse collecting process” said Heather “and we’re working on a design challenge to try to fix it.”

So, what happens when over 25 teams of students design a better way? You get some ambitious ideas.

“The problem was efficiency,” explained Andrew Moore, an 11th grader at Elyria High school. “They had to go around and collect all the trash from all the trash cans.” With teammates Emma Clarke and Kyle Koos, they detailed their plan for an underground tubing system to funnel trash into a single location, using vacuums and high-powered fans to deliver it from all across the park.  “A laundry chute takes all the laundry and puts it in one area at the bottom, so that’s pretty much what we’re doing,” said Clarke. “But the trash is being blown by a high-powered fan into a trash compactor.”

Student solutions of all kinds focused on making the process more efficient, reducing the amount of trash, and implementing a full recycling program.

This team from Midview High School in Grafton had the winning approach. Their solution combined a way to move Cedar Point’s waste with a clever approach to compaction.

After a successful first year, organizers are looking forward to the next. Their hope? More students, less trash.

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