For three weeks in 2018, students across the Lake Washington School District battled each other in a test of STEM skills, with thousands of dollars in prize money for their schools at stake. The KITE STEM Challenge (Kirkland Interactive Technology Experience) was a Google-sponsored challenge to all the schools in the district. Google selected the Kirkland Parks Foundation as partner in this initiative; the foundation created and ran the program.

Open to all students, kindergarten through high school, students competed by answering STEM-related questions. All participation contributed towards the chances of their school winning. As part of the partnership with KPF, students received extra credit when they answered questions while in a Kirkland park.

“This challenge offers students in the Lake Washington School District a fantastic opportunity to test their STEM knowledge and get outside at the same time,” said Darcy Nothnagle, Google’s Head of External Affairs for the Northwest. “We hope this challenge will interest students who might not normally get involved with STEM activities and show them that STEM is for everyone.”

Results At-A-Glance:

  • $41,500 in cash presented to 15 schools
  • 3,056 Students played (>10% district enrollment)
  • More than 300,000 questions answered
  • About 20% played in 1 or more parks
  • 200+ prizes presented to individual students including Pacific Science center tickets/ memberships, Google swag, and science kit subscriptions
geography question from KITE STEM app

The development phase of the project included many contributors. A custom mobile application was created by the KPF team for the Challenge. STEM teachers from around the district contributed grade-appropriate questions across a number of different topics. Two groups of students at Lake Washington High School assisted the team with the Challenge. Marketing students helped promote the competition, while media production students filmed and edited this promotional video, creation of a website, and curation of social media feeds for the Challenge.

Google and KPCF had several community partners in creating the KITE STEM Challenge:

  • The Lake Washington School District enabled teachers and students to help create and promote the Challenge.
  • Pacific Science Center contributed prizes for individual student achievements
  • Lake Washington Schools Foundation helped spread the word about the Challenge to families across the district
  • PTSAs helped boost their school’s participation- the most successful including organized outings of students all working together on STEM questions.
  • Eastside Audubon wrote ecology content questions for the competition.
  • Brilliant.org gave free middle and high school math, physics and logic content questions for the competition.

More than ten percent of the district’s 30,000+ students competed in the Challenge, culminating in an awards ceremony on the Google campus on May 23, 2018. Nineteen schools boasted participation rates of at least 10%. Peter Kirk Elementary had the highest participation level, 53%, which helped them tie for first place among elementary schools.

The schools used the Google-contributed prize money towards a variety of STEM-related programming. A couple of highlights of how the money was spent…

At the Environmental and Adventure School (EAS), the STEM curriculum has focused on human body systems. Students engaged in a group project to build a prosthetic hand capable of stacking ten cups in a pyramid shape.   They were asked to design and build this project after learning about the muscular and skeletal systems.  Students used newly purchased scroll saws and a drill press to fabricate materials into articulating pinching fingers and other apparatus successfully grasping at cups.

Kirkland Middle School used the funds to purchase three Makerbot 3d printers, enabling the school to add 3D design and manufacturing to their newly formed Technology Student Association Chapter last year.  TSA students spent the year learning how to use 3D printers and how to effectively design custom items for printing.  Some of these items included a custom designed joystick integrated into a game console project; and a prototype credit card swiper and coin drop used in a robotics automation project.