Grand Prize Winners of Nation's Most Robust K-12 STEM Competition to Build Full-Scale Science Exhibits

Students at two Kansas schools win $100,000 and will work alongside engineering, architecture and construction professionals to create their own science exhibits

Nov 21, 2013, 13:38 ET from Burns & McDonnell Foundation

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Nov. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Students from Olathe North High School and Leawood Elementary in Kansas have been named the grand prize winners in the "Battle of the Brains," the nation's most robust K-12 STEM competition. Along with taking home $50,000 for their schools, students from each team will work side-by-side with Burns & McDonnell engineers, architects and construction professionals to bring their winning proposals to life – as full-scale science exhibits at Kansas City's Science Center, Science City.

For the first time in the "Battle of the Brains" contest, two grand prize winners were selected to have their proposals transformed into real-life science exhibits at Science City. Both teams beat out nearly 500 entries to claim the grand prizes with unique and compelling entries. The proposed science exhibit by students at Olathe North High School, titled "Tapped Out," will emphasize the rapid decreases in water resources and the steps that must be taken to help ensure clean water does not become a scarce commodity in the future. Leawood Elementary's "GeneTech" exhibit will explore the wonder and science behind heredity, genetic conditions and technology, and the history of DNA. Over the next 18 months students will work with Burns & McDonnell professionals to design and build the exhibits.

"Battle of the Brains is more than a competition, it gives students the opportunity to be an engineer, architect and construction manager," said Greg Graves, chairman and CEO of Burns & McDonnell, a Kansas City-based architecture, construction and engineering firm. "These young people represent our future STEM workers and after seeing all the incredible ideas in this competition, it's safe to say we're in good hands."

Given that there is a sharp decline in the number of students pursuing STEM careers later in life, there is a growing consensus that STEM education should be a priority in curriculums across the country. And, with studies showing that kids are most open to learning about STEM in first through fourth grades, it is imperative to find ways to foster creative thinking and better equip students for future STEM learning. By giving young students a unique opportunity to see firsthand what it is like to work in a STEM profession, the "Battle of the Brains" contest does just that.

The 2013 "Battle of the Brains" saw 3,500 students from 193 schools in the Kansas City metro area compete for grant money and the opportunity to build a science exhibit at Science City. In addition to the two $50,000 grand prize winners, four runners-up received $5,000 each and 14 schools earned $2,500 each. Winners are:

Runners-up $5,000



Proposed Idea

Cordill Mason Elementary

Every Last Drop

Longview Farm Elementary

Tour de Forces



Proposed Idea

Summit Technology Academy

Wright Into the Future

Winnetonka High School


Honorable Mentions $2,500



Proposed Idea

Bonner Springs, Edwardsville and Delaware Ridge Elementary

Down & Dirty – The Science of Urban Farms

Briarcliff Elementary


Cedar Creek Elementary


Crestview Elementary

Recycle City

Hazel Grove Elementary


Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy

One World One Well

Valley Park Elementary




Proposed Idea

Bode Middle School


Belton High School Freshman Center

Maglev Magic

Blue Springs High School

A Journey Inside the Human Body

Drexel High School

Brain Surge

Olathe East Senior High

Head to Toe

Pleasant Hill Middle School

Robots in Medicine

Rockhurst High School

3-D Printing in Modern Medicine

"Battle of the Brains" is the brainchild of engineers at Burns & McDonnell and was developed and funded by the Burns & McDonnell Foundation to address the declining number of students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Science City at Union Station was selected as the 2013 beneficiary of the program. The Burns & McDonnell Foundation has made it a priority to become a leader in developing, organizing and funding STEM education and training initiatives both locally and nationally. The foundation has invested $4.5 million over the past few years in grant programs that support both STEM education and thriving educational environments like at Science City. The 2013 "Battle of the Brains" represents the second competition hosted in Kansas City.

About Union Station Kansas City, Inc.

Union Station Kansas City is a historical landmark and civic asset renovated and reopened to the public in 1999. The organization, driven by its mission of science and history education and entertainment, features a science center, the popular Model Railroad Experience open year round, new planetarium, one of the region's largest screen movie theaters, live theater, shops, restaurants and home to prominent area civic organizations and businesses. Visit for details.

About Burns & McDonnell Foundation

The Burns & McDonnell Foundation is a key component of the firm's longstanding commitment to improve the quality of life through: educational outreach supporting careers in engineering and technology; human services; environmentally responsible practices; and support for the arts and cultural enrichment. In addition Burns & McDonnell encourages and supports volunteer efforts by employee-owners in support of projects and causes that support our communities. Burns & McDonnell provides engineering, architecture, construction, environmental and consulting services to clients throughout North America and abroad. Founded in 1898, Burns & McDonnell is 100 percent employee-owned.





Video with caption: "Secondary Division grand prize winner Olathe North High School's video proposal highlights their "Tapped Out" idea, which showcases the complexity and cost of clean water – and how to preserve it." Video available at:

Video with caption: "Elementary Division grand prize winner Leawood Elementary school's video proposal helps viewers discover the science and wonder that is DNA and heredity." Video available at:

Image with caption: "An Olathe North High School student is speechless after learning her team's proposal earned their school $50,000 and will be built as a real-life science exhibit at Science City. The "Tapped Out" exhibit will highlight how to preserve our planet's most valuable resource - water." Image available at:

Image with caption: "Students cheered as winners of the "Battle of the Brains" competition were announced. Two teams won the grand prize of $50,000 and their proposals being built as full-scale science exhibits; four runners-up won $5,000; and 14 honorable mentions won $2,500." Image available at:

Image with caption: "Leawood Elementary students cannot contain their excitement as they are announced the grand prize winners of the Elementary Division of the "Battle of the Brains" STEM competition. Their "GeneTech" exhibit will investigate the science of heredity, genetic conditions and technology, and the history of DNA." Image available at:


SOURCE Burns & McDonnell Foundation