On May 15-17, a group of 16 youth from the Explore Engineering:Ten80 afterschool program at Gage Park High School traveled to the Ten80 National STEM League Finals in Houston, TX. For the two teams (named Hot Hares and Retro Racers) this trip was the culmination of a long school year of hard work and dedication, as well as the regional competition in February (read about that here). Although

Rival team leaders showing their support.

Rival team leaders showing their support.

they did not win any trophies, the reflections written by the four team leaders shows how they see their participation as a victory in itself. The trip ended with a visit to the Johnson Space Center, where the group checked out some giant rockets. The vibrant Twitter feed from the weekend (which you can peruse here) proves how hard they worked and how much fun they had.

Congratulations to all the students who participated in Explore Engineering:Ten80 this year at four high schools around Chicago!

Below are excerpts of reflections from the four team leaders who traveled to Houston. Go to the Explore Engineering blog for the full reflections.

Uzziel – Hot Hares Co-Leader
On competition day I woke up nervous. I did not know what to expect from all the other teams but I knew that my team was ready. All morning all I thought about was my research presentation and 8-minute presentation. Everything had to go perfect. I trusted my partner researcher and copartner that was presenting the 8 minute presentation with me. I knew everyone would do a good job. I felt like we would go into the competition as the underdogs, but as the competition went on we weren’t. Our team was up there and surely not far back in the competition. It’s such a great feeling CFI-k97VAAAxiXwbeing in a National Competition. Not many students from Gage Park can say that they have competed against National Qualifying teams. Our driver said that it wasn’t even about winning it’s about learning from your mistakes and learning how to fix those mistakes. He is completely right. While I was there I didn’t want anything to go wrong but nothing ever comes out perfect. There were times where I wanted to cry or just close my eyes so I wouldn’t see anything go bad, but as my partner researcher said it was like a dream while he was there and it is a bunch of memories he will never forget. I felt the exact same way. When I joined my first year of Explore Engineering:Ten80 last year, reaching Nationals was like climbing Mount Everest. This year it was like going over a speed bump. We worked and pushed each other so hard that we made a dream come true. I wanted to give up because of all the stress at times but I didn’t, and I believe my character has grown ever since I’ve been in Explore Engineering:Ten80.
Yasmin – Hot Hares Co-Leader
Throughout my Ten80 journey I was able to come to a sudden realization whilst standing with all my team members in the gym where we anxiously waited for our name to be called out at least once. I saw as everyone’s expression changed and how their body language spoke all the words their thoughts could not say out loud. As time went on and the trophies minimized as there was no longer any standing on the tables I felt disappointment, failure, embarrassment, anger, and sadness knowing that our team wasn’t called out to receive a trophy with letters engraved on them. That’s when it struck me. I looked around and visuals of all my team members collaborating flashed through my head. We had done it, a group of kids from underrepresented backgrounds made history through this program.

“I can’t believe we actually won! Doesn’t even feel real” – Tamara Braxton (Ten80 Regionals)CFIlbQ3UIAEOmA8

We were able to deeply connect and reflect with Jackie (PE Program Manager) and she truly impacted us. She made us realize the importance of this program and why we do it. Project Exploration opened the doors for our future.

Everything about our trip was amazing. This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Although my team did not win a trophy we won more than that. We won a sense of a new mindset and perspective.

“I just want to say that I know we are all going our separate ways after this but I love all of you guys and I won’t ever forget our journey, so thanks for that” – Daniel Ramirez (Ten80 Meeting after competition)

Isaac – Retro Racers Co-Leader
In my opinion the experience overall was amazing. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to get to travel somewhere new and participate in something that is really positive. What I liked most about the event is getting to see all the great competition and talent that there is out there. Especially, from those middle schooled students, I was shocked at the fact that kids seven years younger than me are participating in STEM-based events and doing extremely well.

Being in this program helped me grow as a person. I learned more of what it meant to be a team player. CFIpi7GUsAAis2FTen80 really taught me that managing your time is very important because if you leave everything last minute, you can’t expect to be number one. In order to get a pleasurable outcome, the dedication and commitment must be there.

Although, we weren’t first place I was pleased with how my team and I did because it was very exciting seeing the students have an interest in a program like this. It was an honor leading a team that was able to make it as far as they did.

Omar – Retro Racers Co-Leader
“We showed up, did the best of our ability, and used the resources we had, just goes to show nothing is definite,” said Devontae.

Saturday morning like no other, we woke up, got dressed, got our stuff, and headed out to the competition. This was it, all of our hard work, all of our preparing, it was Show Time. For many of us this CFPJiJEUMAA-5Wvwas just so surreal nobody could have imagined a program of just racing a miniature RC cars would have gotten us to travel across the nation to compete in Houston. It was a stepping stone in all of our lives and truly something worth sharing.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn,” said Sarait, and in our case we might not have walked home with a trophy but we didn’t leave empty handed. We might not have been champions in the eyes of the people, but we had won through our experience and through the knowledge that we had gained in this long journey that for many ends at Gage Park Academy,  but for others continues on.


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