Friction between Steamboat Springs High School friends leads to prize-winning science |

Friction between Steamboat Springs High School friends leads to prize-winning science

Steamboat Springs High School juniors Aubrey Morrison, left, and Eric Casey show off their prize-winning Science Olympiad hovercraft. It's built for go, not for show.
Tom Ross

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs High School juniors Aubrey Morrison and Eric Casey enjoy a sometimes feisty working relationship that has paid dividends at large science competitions on Colorado’s Front Range.

The two friends shared second place in hovercraft, third in chemistry lab and third in thermodynamics competitions in the Science Olympiad at Fossil Ridge High School, held Feb. 24 in Fort Collins.

“We’re best friends out of school,” Morrison said. “But whenever we work on things together, we’re always yelling at each other and arguing.”

Morrison, 16, and Casey, 17, agree that a little conflict seems to bring out the best in each of  them.

“We might call the other person an idiot, but we end up getting things done,” Morrison added.

Just one look, and it’s obvious that the Science Olympiad judges weren’t giving out style points when they evaluated the hovercrafts. The hovercraft designed by Morrison and Casey resembles a small hamster cage with a bathroom fan in the floor.

The point is it really performs. 

“We don’t care about looks,” Morrison said. “It’s all about functionality.”

Casey described how he and Morrison used a 3D printer they built from a kit to fabricate the fan that provides the lift for the hovercraft. And a second, steering fan was carefully placed inside the wooden box that frames the hovercraft. The quarter-inch wire mesh that makes the hovercraft look like a rodent cage is required by the rules of the competition for safety reasons.

Casey explained that the hovercraft was judged on its ability to lift weight in the form of penny rolls and how far it can transport that load in 15 seconds. Prize-winning hovercrafts moved their pennies between 1.5 to 2.1 meters, and the Morrison/Casey entry moved 16 rolls of pennies.

Science teacher Charlie Leach, who coaches the science team at the high school, said he’s never noticed Morrison and Casey squabbling with each other in the name of science but praised their ability to motivate their classmates to excel.

“They are leaders,” Leach said. “They are dedicated to their projects, and they’re willing to do projects they aren’t (as interested in) to help the team score points. The other students see them and think, ‘Why can’t I do that?’”

Other prize-winning teams from Steamboat that took part in the Science Olympiad in Fort Collins included: Sarah Heckel and Sidney Barbier, fourth place in applied chemistry; Maecey Crocker and Shay Adamo, fifth in geology; and Claire Travers, Kendra Sollars and Liz Ruzicka in the experimental design competition.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

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