Bronze solvers: Middle school project places at internationals

By Erika Pedroza | Published Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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While their classmates were full-fledged into summer mode – splashing in pools and sleeping late – a group of Bridgeport Middle School students still had one more project to present, at the international level.

Last week, the kids won third place in the middle division of the civic/cultural category at the Future Problem Solving Program International Conference in Ames, Iowa.

Foreign Exchange

FOREIGN EXCHANGE – Bridgeport Middle School students Jacob Marshall and Halle Holbrook trade mementos with students from all over the world at the Future Problem Solving Program International Conference in Ames, Iowa, earlier this month. Submitted photo

“I was filled with so much pride,” said Dalton Huya. “I mean, it is an international competition, and we placed third in the world. I remember some people who said it was not a good plan and we said, ‘Don’t worry – it will be worth it.’ Well, look at us now!”

No one in the U.S. had a better project than the Bridgeport group’s plan to improve traffic flow at school dismissal time.

Student groups from Australia claimed the top two spots.

Ravenswood School for Girls in Sydney, New South Wales won the category with a “Speaking to the Heart” project. Second place went to Fountain Gate Secondary College from Melbourne, Victoria, who presented on “EPIC – Encouraging Pride In our Community.”

Third in the World

THIRD IN THE WORLD – Bryson Morrow, Haley Barton, Katelyn Lanfear and Halle Holbrook build a display, which outlined their plan to improve traffic flow at school dismissal time. Submitted photo

Bridgeport students departed for Iowa on Wednesday, June 11. The following day, the team had two hours to build a display that explained their project.

“My favorite part of internationals was building the display,” Cassady Craddock said. “It was very neat to see the creativity by all the teams, but more so than that was watching our team work together so efficiently.”

Instead of a basic tri-fold presentation, the BMS team built a car that outlines the various phases of the project – from the brainstorming to enacting the plan and the analyzing of the data collected.

“It was not just a car – it was a lean, mean, fighting machine on its way to placing, just to clarify,” Halle Holbrook added.

On Friday, judges interviewed the students before the group participated in the CmPS fair. There, they informed people about their project and handed out props that featured QR codes to access their project’s website (

Throughout the weekend, the kids met with other students in the competition and swapped mementos. BMS students provided stagecoach pins donated by the Bridgeport Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It was very cool meeting different people with pretty cool accents and trading something with them from their own country,” Huya said.

A school year’s worth of hard work culminated at an awards ceremony Sunday, June 15, where the team was named the bronze winner in their category.

The group received a team trophy and each team member received an individual trophy.

Although their project is complete, the students will take with them the lessons garnered along the way.

“[Community Problem Solvers] has taught me better cooperation skills in working on a project with others, and it has helped me to improve on my public speaking,” Kirby Russell said. “These are skills that are very valuable in so many jobs, especially in the fields of law and engineering, both of which I am considering.”

Classmate Cassady Craddock outlined additional lessons.

“Everyone on the team brings special talents to be utilized,” she said. “What one person stinks at, another may shine. We were all able to use our strengths to work together for the good of our project … In school, at home, and throughout our lives we all must learn to work with one another despite our differences.

“No doubt this experience of working for months with the same team on a fairly complex project will benefit me in my future. The ability to lead and communicate with one another are skills we all must have.”

With these lessons under their belts, the class is already preparing for next year.

“CmPS has taught me that no matter who else is entering, or how good their project is, or even if there is a 99 percent chance they will beat you, there is always that one percent chance you will beat them,” Holbrook said. “… We set the bar really high for next year. I bet we will bring back a second trophy next year. Maybe even a first-place one – who knows?”

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