By Jack Minch
Sentinel & Enterprise
LEOMINSTER — A team from the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster won the sixth annual Science of Sports fair at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday for its work studying the traction on prosthetic legs.
“It’s exactly what we want for our children — to be able to go to competition and be able to explain to people all the science, technology, math and engineering they are learning here at the club,” Executive Director Donata Martin said Monday.
Each team member earned $1,000 from Raytheon and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation to use toward a summer camp for STEM or toward their freshman year in postsecondary education.
The science fair is part of Raytheon’s MathMovesU program, which is meant to foster interest in math and science. It’s held annually at Patriot Place at Gillette Stadium.
“I love the Science of Sports science fair,” said New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft on the team’s web page. “I am always amazed by the creativity of the projects.”
This year’s victory was the best showing for the club since it captured second place in the competition in 2012.
Team members include Thomas Kirrane, 12; Vincent Diaz, 11; Abigail Kirrane, 10; Ashlee Aldana, 12; Deanna Bailey, 9; Tino Makwasha, 11; and Veronica Scott, 12.
“We were the youngest team there,” said Rocco Spagnuolo, the club’s unit director.
The team, coached by mentors LaQuincy Dunn and Steven Krystofik, brainstormed ideas for the competition in January before hitting on the idea of asking the best way to improve prosthetic legs for runners who want to continue in their sport.
The Olympics were on television, and the case of South African blade runner Oscar Pistorius, accused of killing his girlfriend, was in the news.
The team went to Fairlawn Rehabilitation Hospital in Worcester to meet a handicapped runner who explained his predicament, Spagnuolo said.
They also received special mentoring from Canton-based Reebok.
“We actually had a little partnership with Reebok,” Spagnuolo said. “Somebody came out to work with the kids and donated some material.”
The club members were able to get their hands on a device that measures the pounds of pressure put on the material before it slipped.
The team held up under tough questioning from Kraft and Raytheon Chairman William H. Swanson.
“These kids are something,” Spagnuolo said. “They put on quite a show. They knew this material inside and out.”