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University prepares for inaugural Great Gorilla Games

March 14, 2014 11:15AM


The Winter Olympics in Sochi have come and gone, but preparation for another large competitive event is underway at Pittsburg State.

The first Great Gorilla Games, a two-venue, technology-related competition for regional high school students, will take place on April 4 at John Lance Arena and the Kansas Technology Center. More than 800 students are expected to attend and compete, making the event one of the largest of the year.

With under a month until the opening ceremony, the organization and preparation efforts continue to gain steam.

“This has been in the works for about a year,” said Mike Neden, associate professor in technology and workforce learning and one of the key organizers of the Great Gorilla Games. “It’s an expansion of an annual event we called the Gorilla Games, which kept growing to the point where we knew we’d one day need more space. So, we decided to run with it this year and turn it into something we believe will be one of the premier events of the year.”

The Great Gorilla Games will feature a variety of STEM-based challenges and competitions, most of which will take place in the Weede Gymnasium. Challenges range from building rubber band-powered dragsters and airplanes to designing and building an autonomous robot.

There will also be a series of technology-related presentations inside and outside the KTC, including demonstrations by the Teeniemunde Rocketry Club and a chainsaw sculpture artist.

“We want the students who participate to truly get a broad-ranging scope of what STEM and technology education is all about,” Neden said. “We want to expose them to this type of environment and hopefully show them why this field continues to grow in relevance and importance.”

Neden said he also hopes the event will serve as a recruiting tool for the Pitt State College of Technology and its technology education program.

“Times are changing and technology is changing,” he said. “That’s always true. What is also true now more than ever is that we need teachers. We need young men and women to enter the STEM world and the technology education world so they can help guide younger generations through these changes and the opportunities that are before us.

“We have quality programs at Pittsburg State that aren’t found in many other institutions in the nation,” he said. “So, of course, we hope that having these high school students on campus will open their eyes to what we offer and perhaps lead to them applying for admission.”

For those students who do take an interest in the university, admission officers will be on hand at the Great Gorilla Games to talk to them about how to apply.

“It’s really a win-win for everyone involved, and that’s what makes it so exciting,” said Andy Klenke, associate professor in technology and workforce learning and a co-organizer of the event. “It’s a very fun and educational day for the students, but it’s also a great opportunity for Pittsburg State to show off what we’re made of.”

More information about the Great Gorilla Games, including a full schedule of challenges, demonstrations and presentations, is available online at

©2014 Pittsburg State University