SHS students engineer products for the future

Body: 

Progress. It is fueled by young minds with fresh ideas.

The "Engineering Design and Development" class is new at Somerset High School this year and it is giving some of the creative minds at the school a chance to turn their ideas into inventions.

The class of 12 is divided into three groups of four students. The students were given a task of developing a product that would advance society in some way. The ideas were far-ranging. One group is working on a self-cooling infant car seat that would keep a child protected if they were forgotten in a hot vehicle. Another group is working on a self-tying shoe, while the third is working on a completely automated chicken coop.

"The whole premise is to find a problem to solve," said course instructor Eric Olson.

The students were given the assignment of running the full gamut of product development. Before they could get into the development of the process, they had to research the need for their product and whether anything like their idea was already on the market. The students estimated that they had put together 80-100 pages of writing in development of their product. High school English teacher Cory Lindenberg was brought in to help the students in writing their proposals.

The class is a continuation in the emphasis to teach more of the sciences and technology in the school district.

"This class is a continuation of their engineering education," Olson said.

A key addition to the new class is an industrial quality 3D printer that was donated to the school by Phillips Medisize Corporation. The donation of the printer, printing materials and software was estimated at $4,500 by Olson. This printer is a step up from the other printers in the class because it has a dual extruder, allowing for the printing of two materials and two colors. This printer also has a . heated bed, so the printed parts will not warp.

"This is much closer to what is out there in industry," Olson said of the new printer. "We really appreciate what Phillips Plastics has allowed our students to do."

Olson said the engineering class is part of the change in culture that is happening at the high school.

"It's a change in thinking we're trying to create. We're trying to create problem solvers in this school. We're giving them more freedom to be problem solvers and we're seeing the benefit of that," Olson said.

Olson said the staff is trying to encourage students to look outward, so when they encourage something that might be considered a roadblock, they instead are looking for ways to find a solution to the problem.

One of the next steps in the goals at the school is to create a "Fab Lab." The school is looking for grants and other funding options or companies that want to make donations to help achieve these goals.

"The area of engineering is of large interest to many of our SHS students," said Somerset High School principal Shannon Donnelly. "Eric is working very hard to bring opportunities for these students to SHS for them to engage in engineering activities and projects that have real-world application. Bringing on the 3D printer was the next step and we are waiting to hear the outcome of a massive Fab Lab grant that Eric and Brandon Berrey (media specialist) submitted last month. It is very exciting and aligns with our district Strategic Plan and vision for education at SHS in terms of delivering our students a 21st century education."

Some of the things Olson is hoping to acquire to make the Fab Lab a reality would be a CNC mill that can mill aluminum, a CNC router that could cut wood, a vinyl cutter, another laser, an injection molder and a CNC plasma cutter that would allow students to cut steel.