Sterling HeightsDecember 21, 2013
Students show their invention skills to U.S. vets
By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer
They’re not defense contractors, but a group of high school seniors recently showed off the fruits of their research and development to benefit U.S. veterans.
High school engineering and multimedia students from Utica Community Schools staged a Dec. 17 tradeshow at the Utica Center for Science and Industry in Sterling Heights after inventing gadgets that assist veterans.
Jill Rilley, Utica CSI’s lead teacher, said the tradeshow is the culmination of a longer project that incorporated diverse student talents and skills.
“It’s really a very real-world way to apply what they’ve learned about programming ... and they use that programming to complete their project,” Rilley said.
“Now, they’re using those skills to literally pitch a product.”
The CSI is the district’s high school program for students who wish to concentrate on technology, multimedia, engineering, robotics and mechatronics fields.
Rilley said that while the engineering and mechatronics students were charged with building and programming functioning prototype devices, multimedia students tackled the task of designing logos for those products and making other marketing materials as part of commercial advertisements.
As part of the research process, students met veterans and asked them for their input and opinions at a nearby VFW hall. Then, they invited veterans to come see the finished products and give their opinions at the tradeshow.
Scott Spry, mechatronics and engineering instructor at CSI, said that around 65 students from engineering and multimedia classes formed eight teams and took part in the project. The students created fictional companies and had a couple of weeks each to work together and make their products, he said.
Spry explained that students learned how to apply techniques that they learned as juniors.
“They designed kits so you can take your existing wheelchair and turn it into a motorized wheelchair (with) a couple hundred bucks,” he said.
In another example of students’ work, one team invented a device that automatically launches a ball so people can play with their dogs, despite injuries or disabilities.
“It’s all run by an air compressor and everything,” Spry said.
Spry said parents, media, another school district and veterans attended the tradeshow.
“We had some come in uniform, which was kind of cool,” he said, describing the veterans.
Learn more about Utica Community Schools at www.utica k12.org or call (586) 797-1000.