ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - In Melody Hicks South Jones Elementary classroom, it's just as much about brainpower, as it is girl power. Made up of all sixth graders, these dozen or so girls are part of a national competition that all started because of a problem in their community, with cars passing stopped school buses.
"It's really important to me and these kids because it's a real life experience. It's a real life problem, one that they feel like they'll have a chance to be a part of and contribute and possibly fix," said Hicks.
Under the direction of Hicks, these girls are making it happen. They've already beat out more than 4,000 entries from across the country to be part of the final 51. The catch is, they must use science, technology engineering and math, known as STEM subjects, to find a solution.
Marlee Robinson said it seemed intimidating at first.
"We were like 'whoa,' this is going to be hard, and then we had a lot of brainstorming ideas and there was this one that sounded good," said Robinson.
That idea is now taking shape. Using cardboard, clay, string, charts, graphs, research and a whole lot of trial and error, a radar sensor came to life. That sensor would be attached to the back of a bus. If a car speeds around as kids are being unloaded up front, it triggers a warning alarm for the kids not to cross the street.
"I'm hoping it'll show people not to illegally pass the bus and it'll help warn kids more," said Emma Shepherd.
Shepherd said the challenge is more than a class project.
"As we were doing it, it starts getting easier and we realized that this is really making a huge impact on our community," said Shepherd.
Right now it's just a model, but with passion, commitment and the help of real life engineers, Hicks hopes it'll do more than just solve the problem and in the contest.
"I hope it opens some girls' eyes to the engineering process and maybe they'll want to be engineers one day," said Hicks.
The group must submit a video of their final project by February 9th. If they make it into the top 15, they'll present their project to a panel of judges in New York.