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Two district teams are Top 20 finalists in Battle of the Brains Competition

Congratulations to Mill Creek Middle School and the combined team from Clear Creek, Horizon, Prairie Ridge and Riverview Elementary Schools

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November 14, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Armed with everything from banners and medals to popcorn and Silly String, crews loaded a fleet of “battle buses” and drove to schools across the Greater Kansas City with a single mission — surprise the top 20 finalists teams in the Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains competition. A record 7,250 students entered Kansas City’s largest STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) competition, in which schools can win grant money and a chance to inspire the next $1 million exhibit at Science City.

Two teams in USD 232 made the elite Top 20 list. Elementary students in the Voyagers program from Clear Creek, Horizon, Riverview, and Prairie Ridge (combined team) were among the first groups to be surprised with the news. The second team in USD 232 to make the Top 20 is at Mill Creek Middle School.

“We pulled up in front of each school, used our megaphones to get the students outside and literally rolled out the red carpet for them,” says Julee Koncak, Foundation director, Burns & McDonnell. “Some students were so excited that their idea could soon be an exhibit at Science City that they were crying with joy.”

Each top 20 finalist team is guaranteed to win a piece of $155,000 in grant money to use toward STEM education. The grand prize-winning team will receive a $50,000 grant, along with the opportunity to work alongside Burns & McDonnell and Science City STEM professionals to transform the winning idea into a $1 million permanent exhibit at Science City. Students in the competition have inspired five exhibits now on display at Science City.

“The number of students participating in Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains has nearly tripled since we started this competition just eight years ago,” says Ray Kowalik, chairman and CEO, Burns & McDonnell. “To me, that means the interest in STEM among Kansas City kids is skyrocketing and that makes me incredibly happy.”

This year, participation in Battle of the Brains hit a record level:

  • 7,250 students
  • 270 schools
  • 840 entries submitted
  • 50 school districts

The top 20 finalists’ schools in the Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains, and their exhibit title, are:

  1. Alexander Doniphan Elementary School; Liberty, Missouri; Backyard Explorers
  2. The Barstow School, Kansas City, Missouri; It’s Lit
  3. Brookwood Elementary School, Leawood, Kansas; Good Vibrations
  4. Compass Elementary School, Platte City, Missouri; Moonville
  5. Cordill-Mason Elementary School; Blue Springs, Missouri; Echolocation Exploration
  6. Delta Woods Middle School, Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Welcome to DenCITY!
  7. EPiC Elementary School, Liberty, Missouri; Engineering Ever After
  8. Gardner Edgerton High School; Gardner, Kansas; Light Up Your World
  9. Lawrence High School; Lawrence, Kansas; AbiliTech
  10. Mill Creek Middle School, Lenexa, Kansas; The Aerodynamics Experience
  11. Olathe East High School; Olathe, Kansas; Color and Light District
  12. Olathe North High School; Olathe, Kansas; Hear That?
  13. Oxford Middle School; Overland Park, Kansas; Farm to Table
  14. Pleasant Hill Intermediate School; Pleasant Hill, Missouri; The Light Laboratory-Living With Light
  15. Pleasant Ridge High School; Easton, Missouri; Magna-World
  16. De Soto School District Voyagers (Prairie Ridge Clear Creek,  Riverview, Horizon Elementary Schools); Shawnee, Kansas; One Earth, One Chance
  17. Summit Technology Academy; Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Beyond the Rainbow
  18. Tonganoxie Middle School; Tonganoxie, Kansas, Step Right Up!
  19. Westridge Elementary School; Kansas City, Missouri; RoboRevolution
  20. Wolf Springs Elementary School; Bucyrus, Kansas; Puzzling Patterns

Group photo of Mill Creek Middle School Battle of the Brains team in front of Battle Bus.
Photo of Mill Creek Middle School Battle of the Brains team.

Group photo of Elementary Voyagers Battle of the Brains team in front of Battle Bus.
Photo of combined elementary Voyagers Battle of the Brains Team.

Judges, comprised of STEM professionals from Burns & McDonnell and Science City, followed a stringent evaluation process to rank entries according to specific criteria, ranging from creativity and inspiration to how interactive and engaging the exhibit could be with visitors.

Vote button graphic, links to webpage. The public weighs in for the final round of the judging process beginning Nov. 15. Everyone is invited to vote for their favorite entry by going to The public vote counts for 30% of the final selection. More than 70,000 votes were cast during the last competition. Online voting ends at 11:59 p.m. Nov. 22, 2019. The grand prize-winning team will be revealed at the awards ceremony on Dec. 4, 2019, at Union Station.

About Burns & McDonnell

Founded by two entrepreneurs in 1898, Burns & McDonnell is a family of companies made up of 7,000 engineers, architects, construction professionals, scientists, consultants and innovators with offices across the country and throughout the world. We strive to create amazing success for our clients and amazing careers for our employee-owners. Burns & McDonnell is 100% employee-owned and is proud to be on Fortune’s 2019 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For.

About Science City

Internationally awarded for “Visitor Experience” by ASTC and regionally awarded in 2017 and 2018 “Favorite Family Friendly Attraction” by Visit KC Visitors Choice Awards, Science City powered by Burns & McDonnell is named one of the country’s TOP 25 science centers. Annually, it educates and entertains hundreds of thousands of science-thirsty children of all ages. Kansas City’s Science Center is THE place for inquisitive young minds to create, explore, and experiment with the BIG world of science through hands-on learning and non-stop fun. Featuring over 200 interactive exhibits and host to countless STEM-based events — including the annual Greater Kansas City Science & Engineering Fair — Science City leads the region in recognition from educators, parents, caregivers AND children alike. Continually evolving and always inventing new ways to make science meaningful and fun, Science City has become THE regional destination for families, groups, special events and even “Science City On The Road” outreach. Union Station Members enjoy Science City visits free of charge. To learn more, please visit