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Bulletproof desk design lands Montana students in national science contest

The Montana School for the Deaf and Blind was recently selected as the state winner in a national Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competition.

The school’s STEM team is engineering school desks designed to withstand natural disasters and active shooters.

When the 13th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM Competition opened in September, Montana School for the Deaf and Blind teacher Erin Barr tasked her students with developing something to benefit the community.

The four high-schooler students, three of whom are visually impaired and the fourth who is deaf and blind, decided to develop a safety desk designed to protect students during earthquakes.

“It actually has a shock absorber system in it to keep them safe under the desk,” Barr said.

The desks, made of stainless steel, wood and laminates, are also designed to withstand hurricanes and tornadoes. They’re also bulletproof.

“Unfortunately we live in the reality of active shooter events, so if they tip the desk they can hide behind it,” Barr said.

The students are still in the design and engineering phase of the project. Barr says it’s too soon to know if the desks could one day be manufactured and sold to customers, but she doesn’t rule out the possibility.

Taking top honors in Montana means MSDB received a prize package of $12,000 in school supplies and technology.

The field of 50 state winners will eventually be whittled down to three national winners this spring, each of whom will win a prize package worth $100,000.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at
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