Senior capstone projects present innovation

FRONT ROYAL – Students in the Project Lead the Way engineering program presented their capstone projects to the public and a panel of judges at Warren County Public Schools’ fifth annual engineering showcase Tuesday evening.

Students in teams of two or three identified a problem they could think up a workable solution to with available resources over the course of the semester. Following a 10-step engineering process, students researched, designed and tested their projects before the final step in presentation.

Tom Breed, technology teacher at Blue Ridge Technical Center, said the program is held in the fall semester so it won’t interfere with the seniors’ graduation plans.

“The program is designed to get them into UVA, Virginia Tech, ODU and Tier 1 engineering schools that do research so that they can go there and be successful,” he said. “We’ve had good success with kids going through.”

Citing more than yearly 148,000 injuries from slamming fingers into car doors, Christian Peters and Robert Rutherford introduced their project, which would stop the hinges on a door once a touch sensor was activated. Because they didn’t have access to all the needed parts, their display wasn’t a working prototype.

Hunter Layman and Zach Atkins presented a fishhook remover to prevent related injuries that would cost substantially less than ones they saw available for purchase online. They tested their project on fish they’d caught themselves.

To provide Jeep owners with a product that would protect their car from unexpected rainshowers, Matthew Martin, Peyton Poe and Dustin Sexton designed and built a collapsible and clear car door that they put on display. They reported that door remained secure from speeds of 15 to 55 miles per hour.

“Believe it or not, it was actually really quiet with the vinyl door,” Poe said. “I honestly couldn’t believe how quiet it was; I thought it was going to be really noisy.”

Kaleb Boyce, Hunter Chilcote and Ethan Martin wanted to give Blue Ridge Technical Center a 3D printer upgrade with a larger model they designed for their project. They said the current printer is 8 by 8 by 8 inches. With a build volume of 5,500 cubic inches, the printer they constructed would cost around $400 to make, less than half of what a comparable sized printer would run. At the showcase, they hadn’t quite finished construction on the printer, but they said they would be finishing it in the near future.

Using an umbrella as a skeleton, Ryan McDonough, Ryan Page and Austin Scott designed a rain cover device for those wanting to keep dry while getting into their cars. Originally considering creating a one size fits all cover, they quickly realized that they would have to customize the covers to specific vehicles.

Zach Chambers and Karl Taubenberger combined the functions of a lawnmower and string trimmer in their flex trimmer. While their demonstration videos showed Taubenberger deftly driving the lawnmower and using the trimmer at the same time, he said he viewed it as simply a skill to learn like driving a stick shift.

“Even if you can’t perform that level of multitasking, the trimmer arm gives you  enough flexibility of movement to be able to stop and still trim the areas you would normally be able to by moving,” Chambers said.

All groups received questions and feedback from a panel of three judges with engineering backgrounds, and Breed said the projects counted for 25 percent of the students’ nine weeks grade.

Breed said that the Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences showcase held Thursday evening at Blue Ridge Technical Center is the first to be held in the school district, and a computer sciences course – a new development from the Project Lead the Way nonprofit that Breed said will eventually become its own four-year sequence – will kick off next year.

“This is a new project for them – we’re a little bit of an early adopter on this,” he said. “The big push for this is to give students programming before they go to college so they can be more successful.”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com