Science, art -- and a favorite mascot -- come together on Busbee Creative Arts Academy project

WEST COLUMBIA, SC -- The learning doesn’t stop when the afternoon bell rings at Busbee Creative Arts Academy.

Members of the Junior Beta Club, along with teachers, community volunteers and others, are working in partnership with We Read SC on a University of South Carolina Cocky’s Reading Express float, which will be part of the city of West Columbia’s Kinetic Derby Day, set for Saturday, April 21.

The event is being billed as a parade featuring kinetic sculptures (human-powered, handmade floats). Floats may not use stored energy, motors, or electricity, according to the event website, and only pushing, pulling, pedaling or walking is permitted to move the human-powered floats throughout the course. Participants must devise human-generated ways to keep “vehicles” moving at a pace of at least 3 mph. At the finish is a “giant, messy grits finishing zone,” the website said. Prizes will be awarded for best floats.

While much of the science and design of the Busbee float is a well-kept secret, the team has a special edge, with Jesse Burke, a structural engineer and president of Burke Engineering, LLC assisting on the project.

“The daughter of a dear friend told me about the project and asked if I would be willing to help out,” Burke said earlier this week, as he and Busbee science teacher Tony King schooled students in precision measuring.  “I was glad to help the kids with integrating art with engineering.”

Burke said he’s been impressed with the level of skills and knowledge that some of the students already have shown in project work.

“It has been a joy working with these kids and I hope that I have been able to teach them a little,” Burke said.  “I’ve let them do the measuring, some of the cutting, and most of the assembly of the pieces we have worked on together.”

Cocky is expected to walk with Busbee’s float, which the team of roughly 15-20 students has been working on since just after spring break.

King said students have learned other skills in their time working on the float.

“The project teaches the important life skills of working together to complete a goal, plus design skills, task planning and scheduling, problem solving, prioritizing, and decision making,” King said.

The parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. For locations and other event details, see