Unified Bocce Team rolls into new season with help from EPICS Club

Two North Penn worlds collided as engineering students put their skills to the test to build new equipment for the Unified Bocce Team.

The courts were set up with help from the cart to kick off the season.

TOWAMENCIN – Continuing inclusivity and improving the human condition. North Penn helping North Penn.

Last year, Special Olympics asked North Penn High School if they wanted to add a winter sport to the school’s line up of Unified Sports.

“Of course we said yes,” said physical education and bocce coach Kristen Panaski.

Last winter, Panaski applied for a grant from the North Penn Education Foundation to start a bocce team, get a bocce court, and transport the team to games. After getting this grant, the bocce team went on to win the State Championships in the first year of its existence.

Even after an amazing first season, Panaski explained that team knows “it’s more about the memories and connections you make.”

These memories and connections are expanding this season. With more people joining the bocce program, Panaski went back to the NPEF for another grant to build a second court.  

Submitted Photo
Senior Greg Lostaunau working hard on creating the cart.

On top of needing a construction team to build the newest court to prepare for a bigger season, Panaski needed to get past a roadblock from last seasonThe cart that Panaski used last season to hall the bocce court was unstable. The trash can filled with 28 pvc pipes, each over five feet tall, was extremely top-heavy. There were 40-45 pounds of pipes falling over that could hurt someone and crack. On top of being cumbersome and dangerous, the cart couldn’t fit into the closet after games and was always in the way.

Panaski took these problems to North Penn High School’s Engineering Department. Technology Education teacher Michael Boyer and the EPICS (Engineering Projects and Community Service) Club were more than happy to help.

EPICS Club assembled a team of nine club members who set out to assist the bocce team. They found the parts they needed from Lowe’s and began cutting the pipes into the sizes they needed for the new court. Once the team finished getting all of the parts ready, they started to build.

“We had like an assembly line. Someone marked the holes, someone drilled the holes, and then the next would screw,” said Andrew Farid, a member of the EPICS Club.

“Divide and conquer; it’s what we did as a team,” added Boyer.

Kristen Panaski
The original bocce cart – a new one is on the way thanks to EPICS Club!

After building the second bocce court, the EPICS Club went back to Panaski’s problem from the previous season: the top-heavy cart. They were able to begin initial planning to solve that problem, but did not have enough time.

“Last year we took measurements of the bus [and] the pipes just to see if it would fit. We made a design and we’re putting that into play this year and we’re just starting to design it,” said Greg Lostaunau, an EPICS Club member involved with the project.

To improve the cart, the court will be transported in a trash can with twenty-eight holes for each pipe to keep the court stabilized. Latches will keep the pipes secured to ensure safety along with spacing between pipes for even weight distribution.

“They’ve gone through a couple different design iterations because the concept has changed based off need or based off of preliminary testing. We realized that the initial design wasn’t going to work, so the students went back and came up with a new idea, so the plans might take a half hour or so. The preconcept work [and] the design thinking through takes a lot of teamwork and discussion to figure out what they think [is] the best path to take,” said Boyer.

Even though the EPICS Club faces obstacles in their planning and has to put in a lot of effort, they work to help Panaski and the bocce team along with the rest of North Penn because they understand how meaningful their work is.

“What makes it exciting is that there’s purpose. There’s a reason. You know we’re helping out the bocce team, and so it’s not just we’re learning about engineering and design and work, they’re actually helping somebody. . . the purpose of engineering is to improve the human condition and that’s what they do and that’s what engineers do and it’s really neat for them to be a part of that. . . and they have fun at the same time. It’s almost like a family,” finished Boyer.