Science drives excitement at Gravity Games

By Melonie Flomer

March 26, 2014

ROCKINGHAM — Physical science. Forces and motion. Wind resistance. Friction.

These are the scientific principles five Rockingham Middle School students will put to the test while preparing to compete in the North Carolina Gravity Games. The competition is set for April 5 in downtown Lenoir.

The Gravity Games, a STEM initiative co-sponsored by Appalachian State University and tech giant Google, is designed to remind students that science can be fun. STEM is the acronym for a group of the related fields of the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The fun begins when the middle or high school team receives a free kit from Google and ASU with all the parts needed to assemble a fully functional box car.

“This is like something dads used to do in the garage with their kids back in the ’50s,” said science teacher Christy Wikane. “When kids get their hands on tools, they get so engaged and excited.”

It all began when Wikane received an email from Wayne Capps, of Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill. The planetarium sponsors about 10 STEM teams for the games. The email invited Wikane to recruit five students for a team from Rockingham Middle School. She posted signs in the hallways and notices onto the school website.

Soon, the team of five seventh-graders was assembled. Team member Dylan Goins has a special reason for celebrating his selection for the project.

“I was pretty excited when I found out about it,” he said. “I was supposed to be in the Science Olympiad before and we’d built a car, but I was sick that day and I didn’t get to go.”

Now Dylan will be building another car with his teammates — and this car will compete in a real race, on a real street, against real competitors.

This is the first year a school from Richmond County has participated in the Gravity Games. Dylan will continue to work with the other members of his team — Aaliyah Patterson, Ashley McGuire, Johnny Tingle and Gabrielle Davis — as they build their mean street machine for the upcoming race.

The NC Gravity Games are free and open to the public. Events begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. with racing taking place on Ashe Avenue. An awards presentation will be made on stage at the corner of Main Street and West Avenue. For more information, visit