Teens place in national tech conference

Hillsboro teens Erich Herbel, Carson Herbel, and Matthew Denholm fared well in a national technology conference last month in Washington D.C.

Nearly 4,800 competitors were part of the largest Technology Student Association conference in the organization’s history.

Each boy qualified by placing in different events at a state conference earlier this year.

Chapter adviser Creigh Bell accompanied the students.

At the national conference, brothers, Erich and Carson, placed second in a structural engineering event in which they had two hours, 30 minutes to build the strongest structure.

The Herbels built a model of a boxed girder beam out of basswood, Bell said. At full scale, a girder is used to support a roof, floor, or other loads.

Their model was then put in a machine that applied pressure until the girder failed.

Out of 15 Kansas chapters in attendance, the Hillsboro chapter was the only to bring home a trophy.

Individually, Erich — who has qualified for the national conference for the past four years — competed against 155 entries in dragster design and came in 37th overall.

“It was a CO powered dragster design that is common to the tech conference,” Bell said. “But they took it to a new level this year.”

Bell said dragster models were created using software that tested designs in a virtual wind tunnel.

“They digitally redesigned their models accordingly before they physically built anything,” Bell said. “They were looking for a dragster with the most lift and the least drag.”

Bell said Erich also used software to customize and trim down wheels before he manufactured them.

“The kids were not locked to a predetermined design,” Bell said. “Erich designed everything on his dragster.”

Along with Matthew, Erich also finished in the top half of a flight endurance competition. Erich’s best flight time 86 seconds. Matthew’s best time was 62 seconds.

Matthew also participated in a two-part robotics competition.

Matthew finished 24th out of 57 in a programming challenge in which robots operated according to preprogrammed instructions. He also placedw 28th out of 75 in driver control skills while he drove his robot, Syphra, manually.

The second part was a single-elimination tournament in which contenders tried to outscore each other in head-to-head competition. Matthew’s robot was eliminated in the second round.

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