A winning innovation
Innovation competition produces winning Clinton High School entry
Problem-solving, design and development. They have all those covered - now, all they need is production and marketing.
The junior engineers of Project Lead the Way at Clinton and Laurens District High Schools brought forth their innovations last Wednesday in the first design challenge staged at the Laurens County Higher Education Center. CHS seniors Jose Santiago and Cole Prince brought home the first-ever, first prize with their innovation, the E.T. Stylus.
They developed a way for Parkinson’s patients to write more legibly than with a traditional writing stylus. Prince said the idea originated on a visit to Erskine College.
“It makes their writing more legible. It’s easier to grip,” Prince said. “On a visit to Erskine College, I met a guy whose great-grandfather was having trouble with the stylus (for example, a pen that can retrace from a Smartphone for handwriting on the screen). With this, he is better able to communicate.”
The 12 student-teams competing in the first-ever Laurens County Engineering Design and Development Innovation Challenge, sponsored by Piedmont Technical College, are among the first students to be part of the Carolina Alliance for Technology program all four years of their high school careers.
A federally-funded program that included Districts 56 and 55, and Richland 1, CAT is designed to produced the next generation of American engineers.
It is widely accepted that the United States is slipping behind nations like India and China in STEM - science, technology, engineering, math. Some programs add an “A” for art, in their STEAM curriculum.
Project Lead the Way and CAT are programs designed to show students college environments where STEM is taught, and innovations are developed. From there, they can advance their educations through Clemson University Engineering and three PTC associate degree programs - Electronic Engineering Technology, Engineering Design Technology and Mechanical Engineering Technology.
PLTW instructors are John Michael Hammond, at Clinton High, and Rob Sheffield, at Laurens District High School.
“We are rivals in athletics, but in academics, we are very similar,” Sheffield said in opening remarks to last Wednesday’s LC EDD Innovation Challenge.
Students and judges spent five hours at the Higher Education Center explaining their projects, talking to each other, and attending the award presentation.
The Higher Education Center is nearly equi-distant between LDHS and CHS, so organizers billed this as students meeting “mid-county” to unveil their innovations. This is a year-long project for the LDHS class, and a since-Christmas project for the CHS class.
The rubric for this competition judges the students on:
-- Depth of Knowledge - highest score: “All students in the group were able to answer the panel’s questions on a range of technical topics related to their problem’s solution”;
-- Presentation skills - highest score: “Students were well prepared, well rehearsed and dressed appropriately. They presented a professional presentation and all students in the group contributed evenly”;
-- Presentation content - highest score: “Exactly as an Executive Summary should be for a technical presentation. Only ‘big picture’ material was discussed, but students were prepared to talk in extreme detail during the question and answer period. Content and visual imagery were appropriate.”
“The world is in good hands,” District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields said in assessing the junior engineers. “In a small county, we can do great things - an outstanding job by both schools.”
“In college, it’s a lot more on you. You see what you need to get done,” said engineering student Lucky Marone to the PLTW students. “I’m from a small town. I’m from Waterloo, I work and study at Piedmont Technical College. I am a member of two honor societies, I’ve had six or seven job offers, I am all-state in academics. I have classmates designing robots, homes, hospitals and floor plans for companies.”
Piedmont Tech emphasizes the fact that successful Project Lead the Way students could have a leg-up in attending college.
A flyer says, “Great News, Graduate! If you took Project Lead the Way classes in high school, you may have already earned credits toward a degree in Engineering Technology. The Engineering Techology department at Piedmont Technical College is offering courses in apply toward the Project Lead the Way classes taught in high schools.”
These PLTW high school courses have corresponding course work at PTL:
-- Introduction to Engineering Design;
-- Principals of Engineering;
-- Computer Integrated Manufacturing;
-- Civil Engineering and Architecture.
A flyer says the average salary in South Carolina for Mechanical Engineering Technicians is $53,790/year, and employment in this field is projected to grow 12% by 2024.
This field of study is designed for young people who have “always been curious about how things work, enjoy fixing things and solving practical problems,” the PTC flyer says.