Ten Surry County School students recently put semester-long engineering projects on display during a community presentation and question-and-answer session.
The students were part of the Project Lead The Way program, which consists of four courses taken over several semesters, culminating in the final engineering design and development class.
“The engineering design and development class is a capstone class that allows students to design and develop an invention or an innovation of a product,” said Jonathan Sutphin, who teaches Project Lead the Way courses. “It inspires students to think critically and problem solve. This is the fourth time this particular class has been offered, and the students seem to get more involved each year.”
This year, ten students completed the class. As part of the course, the students were split into four groups. Each group had a $200 budget and was required to utilize a mentor throughout their project. For the final class exam, each group had to make a presentation about its engineering design and development prototype.
That took place recently, when 85 adults consisting of mentors, family members, and school and district personnel filled the North Surry High School cafeteria for the presentations. Among them were teachers and students from the Alamance-Burlington School System, on hand to see how the local Lead the Way program is carried out.
Each group gave a fifteen-minute presentation then guests could freely move about the room and ask individual questions, and each group received feedback from the guests. By the end of the night, both students and guests understood the process and prototypes better.
The Wake Talk Group had three members, Chynna Brintle, Calvin Johnson, and Ethan Shumate, who put together something to help wakeboarders..
“We designed a piece to attach to a ski rope handle that allows the rider to communicate with the boat driver to speed up or slow down,” Chynna Brintle said. “It also lets the driver know if the rider has fallen off the wakeboard.”
The innovation is a compact piece consisting of two parts — one attaches to the handle of the rope and the other on the dash of the boat. This device can be used with any type of water sport. Their mentor, Brandon Palmer from the Ottenweller Company Inc., met with the group every Thursday for the semester. He helped with the design process and the mechanical aspect of the device. The project idea came from Ethan Shumate who says he combined two favorite things — electronics and wakeboarding.
Nicholas Conzone, Abby McBride, and Karlie Marion formed the Smart Mail group, creating a device that attaches to the top of a standard residential mailbox. It sends an email and photograph to any paired device of what has been delivered to the mailbox.
The group members said they were attempting to modernize the mail delivery process and take the guesswork out. Graham Stewart from Nester Hosiery Inc. served as their mentor. He is originally from Scotland and now lives in Colorado. As a programming director for Nester, he often travels to Mount Airy so the group had several face-to-face meetings and then used Google Hangout to communicate at other times.
Stewart helped the group with the programming aspect of the project and making it as efficient as possible.
“We had to learn a completely new type of programming that we were not used to using,” said Nicholas Conzone.
Drew Jones and Tre Gates made up the Slurp Stopper team. With parents in mind, they invented a bottle cap lock that would keep children from drinking a sugar-filled, caffeinated, or alcoholic drinks that did not belong to them. Their prototype included two sizes of bottle cap locks.
They created the cap lock and then used a luggage lock from Lowes Hardware. John Priddy, mentor, met them every Tuesday morning throughout the semester. With an extensive background in finance, he helped with price point and cost of design.
“He talked with us about how we should market it and how we should sell it in the future and guided us in ways to get it manufactured by setting us up with his contacts in the manufacturing outlets,” Drew Jones said.
Priddy connected the team with Stan Sanders from United Plastics who assisted with the injection molding. He showed the steps that the innovation would go through and made recommendations on different types of plastics. He also connected them with Brandon Palmer from Ottenweller who discussed possibly making the product from metal.
“He used his facility to mill out a product for us and we learned metal was too heavy and a little too big,” said Jones.
Carson Draughn and Cameron Smith named their group the Dunkin’ Daddy Group.
During their research, they found some items they were interested in improving. They worked on a device that would hold two cookies and would dunk those cookies in milk while avoiding getting fingers wet. Stephanie Slate from Insteel mentored the group.
“She helped us with the planning process and she answered a lot of questions,” Cameron Smith said. “She connected us with different folks and even had a logo sticker made for our design.”
In addition to working with Slate, Cameron and Carson emailed Dunking Buddy, LLC, asking if the two could complete an optimization or innovation to the design of the original Dunking Buddy. They began corresponding with Arthur Watson, the CEO of Dunking Buddy.
They are partnering with the Dunking Buddy company and are in conversation with the CEO to further their development of the Dunking Buddy.
“We talked to him every other week, and he provided feedback,” said Carson Draughn. “He lives in New Canan, Connecticut, but flew in for our presentation last week to meet us.”
Watson, according to the Surry County Schools, is getting figures on what it would cost to manufacture this product.
“Not only have we learned basic engineering processes, but we have an understanding of the design process,” said Nicholas Conzone. “We also developed leadership skills so no matter what route we take in life, we can use those leadership skills in the future.”