Appalachian, Google cosponsor STEM-promoting Gravity Games

Appalachian State University and Google will cosponsor the Western North Carolina Gravity Games in downtown Lenoir Saturday.

The annual event is a soapbox derby that aims to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to young students.

The event features two categories – a gravity-only division and a powered division. The gravity-only division will feature teams from local middle and high schools, while the powered contest is open to anyone.

Michael Briley, who chairs Appalachian’s department of physics and astronomy, helped plan the event.

“It’s a worthwhile effort to reach out to the community,” Briley said. “Our mission is education – not just to students, but to the state of North Carolina.”

Enoch Moeller, operations manager at Google’s data center in Lenoir, said his company is especially interested in promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics to young students.

“Staging a race is a good way to get kids thinking critically about these topics,” Moeller said. “How do I make the car go faster?”

He said he expects around 30 teams to participate and 700 to 1000 spectators to attend the event. The total team count is lower than last year, but participation is much more spread out around the state, he said.

Moeller said next year’s event will be different, and the changes will be announced at the end of this year’s games.

Appalachian students formed a team last year that finished second to Google in the powered division. No team from the university will participate this year.

The Gravity Games is one of the final events of the North Carolina Science Festival, a multi-day celebration of science and technology that lasts from April 13 to 29.

Story: KEVIN ATKINSON, Intern News Reporter