Middle schoolers do ‘Genius’ work at South Range

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By Billy Ludt



Thirty students from South Range Middle School are spending an hour a week to solve a problem of global proportion.

“This is your hands-on, this is real-life application,” said Brock Miller, an eighth-grade math teacher at South Range. “It gives kids an opportunity to get away from the typical core classes.”

This is the Northeast Ohio Genius Project.

South Range is joining schools from Columbiana, Portage, Stark, Summit and Tuscarawas counties as the first Genius Project competitor from Mahoning County. The project incorporates elements of art, science, math and financial literacy, and gives students a problem to solve.

“It’s a great learning activity that helps us enhance our minds,” said Jacob Richardson, seventh-grader and self-proclaimed “cool guy.”

The clock is running. The students’ goal is to design a plane capable of achieving the same air speed as a Cessna Citation X – that’s 528 knots.

Next, they have to book a round-trip flight to places such as Antarctica, the Sahara desert and Costa Rica, but the plane must take off from Akron-Canton Airport.

The students need to determine all of this math with their cellphones and build a model plane with materials that include balloons, paper plates, sandpaper and plastic foam tubes; and every hour and every supply that’s used for the project is pushing their budget closer to zero.

“You have to be smart with your money,” Miller said.

Each of South Range’s six groups is given a budget of $600 to design a plane, design a logo, determine air speed and plot a trip by plane. But the locales aren’t always straight shots from Akron-Canton, and a day of work alone costs each group $13.50.

“It’s fun because you can be creative with what you’re doing,” seventh-grader Emmett Bailey said.

While they’re at it, periodic challenges are added to increase the difficulty of the task.

The project began Feb. 1 when the groups opened boxes delivered to the school that contained the rules and supplies. Before that, the boxes’ contents were unknown to the students.

They have a nine-week deadline for completion, and at the end one group from South Range will represent the school April 12 at the Cultural Center for the Arts in Canton. Top winners will receive trophies.

“It’s kind of them putting everything together,” Miller said. “I’m just here for support. They’re running the show. It’s cool to see what a 12- to 14-year-old can do.”

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