Students are putting the finishing touches on their creations in Mechanical Engineering to be shown at Techsposition on Tuesday night at 6:30 PM in the Math/Science Wing. The event serves as the final exam for the trimester and the whole school is invited in to enjoy their work.
Walking into the MakerLab there are five teams at work on their projects, each in various stages of completion. They range from a coffee maker to a blimp! All but one are incorporating electronic motors or switches that need to be programmed to make them work as desired. A trebuchet, beautifully made of wood and weights, is the only non-electronic project. That might be why that one is mostly complete!
The trial and error that goes into the motors which power the machines is frustratingly complex. It takes a lot of patience and a willingness to adapt the project or designs as needed. For example, the remote-control car may be getting a chassis rehab to fit the larger motor they have had to change to as it was the only one that worked with the remote controller they have. Sounds like the 3D printed car might have to become a convertible, or maybe jacked up like a monster truck! “We’ll see how much time we have,” said Lorenzo Mira ’20.
The students work on teams, with each taking on a different part of the project. Those who have taken electrical engineering focus on the coding, while others work on the design of parts to be printed in the 3-D printer. Still others work on the write ups for the display and project posters required for Techsposition. Liz Seero ’19 said, “I took electrical last term, so I used things I learned there to try programming a switch to turn our fluidized sand machine on.”
“What is that?” you ask. Sand that moves like water, of course. It is actually very fine glass that is pressurized with air to make it float. The device is fun to play with, making the sand look like water, but importantly, it has useful applications for the physical therapy of injured hands and wrists and ankles. Nick Losardo ’19 came up with the idea during physical therapy for an injured ankle, thinking it would be cool to be able to replicate the machine his therapist had in the office.
Another project simulates a prosthetic leg kicking a soccer ball. The leg was designed and 3D printed by one teammate, with motors controlling the hip and knee “joints.” These motors need to consider the timing of the motion of each joint in succession, as well as the angles the motor should move the joint in order to kick the ball.
The blimp is one of two flying machines. For this one, the complexity came in measuring the lift power of two helium balloons to carefully lift a motorized platform fitted with a motorized propeller and a rudder to steer it. Their goal is a neutral float that can be steered slowly around the room. The second, a remote-controlled airplane, was built by another section of the class, there are 3 sections of Mechanical Engineering. Their projects, as well as projects by Advanced Engineering, will all be on display at Techsposition.
The atmosphere in the room is remarkably calm and congenial as the students work together with confidence that they will work all the issues out to a successful conclusion. Their teacher/coach, Dr. Kistler stands by ready with a helpful suggestion or just the right tool or question to get them on track. It is all in the process of becoming an adaptive, confident, iterative learner!