Student trade show’s inventors solve problems, help others

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 9, 2015

 Student Marco Pietrantonio shows how to use a device that is designed to help people with arthritis lift heavy pots and pans. Fellow students Ashley Waddell and Lucas Atallah stand nearby.

Student Marco Pietrantonio shows how to use a device that is designed to help people with arthritis lift heavy pots and pans. Fellow students Ashley Waddell and Lucas Atallah stand nearby.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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High school seniors who attend Utica Community Schools and its Utica Center for Science and Industry showed the community their tricks of the trade for designing helpful new products.

According to school officials, UCSI held a simulated trade show Dec. 2 at its building in Sterling Heights as a way to teach high schoolers lessons about integrating engineering, mechatronics and multimedia elements.

At the trade show, the students presented inventions and products that they created to help people with disabilities or who face struggles to live out their everyday lives more easily. Guests, such as local business representatives, who attended that morning were able to provide feedback.

Engineering technology and mechatronics instructor Scott Spry said the trade show’s theme was “CSI Gives Back.” Nineteen groups of students with four kids per group set out to work together to make products, he said.

“What they had to do was they were given a challenge of producing a product that would help somebody with some sort of adversity — that could be a handicap, that could be somebody that’s on the streets,” he explained.

“They had to go through a design process and a brainstorming process, coming up with ideas and putting those ideas into motion, taking it from an idea to a product.”

Spry said some students designed apps to help people with autism remember things or to help senior citizens shop at a grocery store. Part of the activity involved going out into the community and interviewing people about their needs, he said.

Another part required collaboration between engineering students and multimedia students to flesh out the product concept and the marketing for it

“We have the right-brained kids working with the left-brained,” Spry said.

Brendan Milosavljevic, a senior who attends UCSI, said his group did a package of three projects after talking to staffers at the Michigan Humane Society in Rochester Hills. The animal welfare group told the students about problems they had with reusing bedding, as well as noise caused by barking dogs.

Milosavljevic said his group’s main invention was a dog bark sensor that has a small microphone that detects when a dog is barking over a certain level. The device then plays classical music to calm the animal down.

He said another project produced a washable, less porous bed for animals that could be reused after cleaning while minimizing the risk of spreading disease. In addition, he said, the students discovered an inexpensive, rubbery material that could be added to animal cages to offer some soundproofing.

“The material that we found was see-through,” he explained. “It’s flexible and can bend.”

Learn more about Utica Community Schools by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000.

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