Engineering A Virtual Amusement Park

 On Saturday, April 20, Arkansas students in 6th through 12th grade brought their amusement park designs to the University of Arkansas for the seventh annual IE Challenge, a competition that encourages students to explore industrial engineering concepts through hands-on activities.

The IE Challenge was organized by Melissa Miller, a sixth-grade science teacher at Lynch Middle School in Farmington, and Randall Reynolds, an eighth-grade math teacher at Gravette Junior High. These teachers are participating in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Teachers program, which supports K-12 teachers in pursuing science and engineering research.

Forty-four teams from across the state entered the contest by submitting a paper explaining their approach to the virtual amusement park game, Roller Coaster Tycoon III. These papers included park layout, personnel, queue structures and more. From these teams, five junior teams and ten senior teams were selected to come to campus.

The finalist teams gave presentations, explaining the industrial engineering concepts they used in their simulation game play. A panel of engineering graduate students served as judges for the presentation. After that, the teams had 45 minutes to build an amusement park, using the game and the strategies they developed in their projects. Finally, each team made a presentation explaining the reasons behind the choices they made in the game. Scores from the initial presentation, live game play, and final presentation were then tabulated to determine the IE Challenge winners.

In the junior division, the Crazy Coasters from Gravette Middle School won first place, the Team Ducks from Henderson Magnet Middle School in Little Rock received second place and the Blue Xephos from Cutter-Morning Star placed third.

First place winners in the senior division were The Perpetual Motion Squad from Greenbrier High School. The Coaster Rockers from Gravette High School placed second and Team Shad from Pottsville Jr. High came in third.

Miller and Reynolds’ research project, which focuses on getting students interested in industrial engineering, is supported by the University of Arkansas industrial engineering department and the Center for Excellence in Logistics and Distribution via a Research Experience for Teachers grant from the National Science Foundation. The teachers worked under the guidance of industrial engineering professors Richard Cassady and Ed Pohl.

Release date: 4/26/2013