Remi Giroux, left, stands next to Sam Darragh, right, at the UNBC high school design competition. Their puck-shooter design took weeks and lots of testing to complete, says teacher Jory Wong. /PHOTO COURTESY UNBC

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

Valemount Secondary School students Remi Giroux and Sam Darragh are the inaugural winners of a design competition organized by the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). Giroux, a Grade 12 student, and Darragh, a Grade 11 student, have each been awarded $1,000 in tuition credits for UNBC’s School of Engineering.

The competition challenged high school students to design and use a puck-launching device powered by a falling sandbag. Students had to aim the puck towards a target on the ice, almost like curling, said teacher Jory Wong.

Before entering the competition, students submitted documents detailing their prototyping process, as well as justification for the design choices they made, Wong said. Ultimately, four teams competed at the competition.

Wong said it was interesting to see the variety of designs that students came up with. Giroux and Darragh opted for a spring-powered design: the sandbag loaded the spring, which then shot the puck outwards. Other teams used a combination of pulleys and bike-pump-like contraptions to shoot their pucks, she added.

Students had to get creative when troubleshooting malfunctions, Wong said.

“We [tested the device] in my art room, which we’re doing ceramics in. There was a lot of clay and dust,” she said. “What we found during testing in the week leading up was even just a little bit of sand and grit could make a difference in the puck landing.”

Giroux and Darragh finished building the device about a month before the competition took place, said Wong, and spent the next month testing it several times a week.

Darragh said while the experience was nerve-wracking, it was also informative.

“It taught us a lot about what engineering is like because you have to change and adapt to the circumstances, and we found that throughout this competition,” Darragh said.

Giroux, who is also Valemount Secondary School’s UNBC Scholar, plans on attending the school next year.

“I’m excited to live [on campus] next fall,” he said. “It will be my first time living away from home and I’m excited to embark on the next chapter of my life.”