Nov. 16, 2019

Kristi Widmar  \  Burns & McDonnell

Corporate Communications Manager

Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains Finalists Learn They’ll Share $155,000 in Grants; Grand Prize Design Will Inspire Next $1 Million Exhibit at Science City

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

“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. Prairie Ridge Elementary School; 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

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.

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.

Cordill-Mason Elementary School
Team Echolocation Exploration is made up of 4th graders within Blue Springs School District boundaries from seven different schools-Voy Spears Elementary is 64064 zip code.
Five Voy Spears Elementary Team members. These students are bused once a week to their program, housed at Cordill Mason Elementary to be taught by Lee’s Summit Resident Jennifer Medina.  Take a look at their presentation here.
Delta Woods Middle School
Summit Technology Academy

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’s2019 list of100 Best Companies to Work ForFor more information, visit