Fox Chapel Area High School students receive top honors in a STEM competition at Heinz Field

A team of freshmen from Fox Chapel Area High School comes up with a plan for Heinz Field’s future.

It’s not about adding seats to the rotunda at North Shore Stadium. Nor does it follow a scouting analysis of college players for the upcoming NFL draft.

Instead, students Arnim Kuchhal, Varad Sant, Etash Jhanji and Rohit Velankar spent about two months researching and developing plans to make the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Panther Football more energy efficient and use renewable resources.

Named “The Mean Greenes” after legendary Steeler and NFL Hall of Famer “Mean” Joe Greene, the team’s project included solar panels, hydroelectric panels and piezoelectric flooring.

“It was definitely fun,” Arnim said of working on the project. “We got together outside of school to meet and do some research and figure out how to solve the problem. It was fun building the scale model. We designed it digitally and then fabricated and assembled the pieces. It was definitely a fun project.”

Arnim said his classmates are all Steelers fans, but he’s rooting for Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady.

Piezoelectric floors are special tiles, usually made of crystals, to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. They build up a charge when subjected to a load, such as when B. when you step on them.

The proposed hydroelectric modules draw energy from the slow-moving waters of the Allegheny River using technology from Waterotor Energy Technologies, an Ontario, Canada-based company.

The devices would sit at the bottom of the river, collecting energy and not disrupting boat traffic, Varad said.

Their idea was good enough to win first place in the third annual Powering Pittsburgh competition, held at Heinz Field in November.

“Going into this gigantic stadium feels like it’s so much more important,” said Rohit. “I think in some ways it boosted our confidence and in some ways it made us a little bit nervous.”

Fox Chapel was among 18 teams from schools in Allegheny, Washington and Beaver counties that competed.

“The event was developed and hosted by the Steelers as part of our Steelers STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) partnership platform,” said Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten. “In this case, we partnered with Shell Polymers to give students a different way to connect with our organization outside of the field. STEM education programs are important and vital to the growth of the region and for our partners to invest in the future.”

It was unclear whether Steelers or Heinz Field officials would consider the Fox Chapel team’s plans.

Attempts to reach the judges of the competition were unsuccessful.

All four students live in O’Hara and have known each other since elementary school. Science and mathematics are her favorite subjects.

The team’s main goal was to raise awareness of “green”, renewable energy sources – and not just to win a trophy.

“I don’t know if they will actually put (our idea) into practice,” Rohit said. “I definitely hope they will at least think about it. … This is meant to be thought-provoking in the newer generations. It would be cool if they implemented it, but it doesn’t matter if they do. It’s important that they see that there is a newer generation that is thinking and will take us forward.”

Arnim believes the inclusion of the hydroelectric modules and the way the team presented themselves made their project stand out.

“I think Waterotor was definitely one of the things we could find that was kind of obscure,” he said. “I think we really presented our project as a team and we answered the jury’s questions smoothly and fluently. It sort of separated us.”

The cost of the student proposal ranged from $2 million to $5 million.

The students said Waterotor would pay for itself in about seven years. The solar panels would do the same in about five to ten years.

The panels would be spread over an area of ​​700,000 square feet. Heinz Field is approximately 1.49 million square feet.

The team received a $1,500 donation to continue their high school STEM education and was recognized on December 5 during a Steelers game.

Teacher Lisa Gibson was the sponsor of the team.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the efforts of these young men,” Gibson said. “Their ideas were unique, innovative and, as demonstrated in their presentation, cost effective. They carefully considered every angle of their project and faced the competition with confidence and composure.

“I look forward to supporting them in future endeavors and can’t wait to see what they achieve next.”

Michael DiVittorio is a contributor to the Tribune-Review. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, or via Twitter .

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