Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Computer Design - Mechatronics (Heritage High School)

LPS provides many amazing opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to real-world problems. Mr. Whitehorn's students at HHS share how their computer design class connects with our surrounding community. 

Mechatronics - Technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering. 

How does a project change for you when you know you are designing for an individual in the community rather than for a grade? "It becomes less of a restriction and more of a passion. Mr. Whitehorn emphasizes so much in TSA to do “work with a purpose,” something that will serve a purpose to our community. He then puts us on a path with a project, gives us whatever tools we need, and leaves the rest of the work to us. With our goal and the freedom that we are given. we turn our motive from “assignment” to a “passion.” It is a great experience to be able to create products that can potentially change people's lives. Instead of an assignment deadline being the driving force to our productivity, our passion is the driving force to our productivity. Without restrictions, without boundaries, we hope to make a bigger difference in our community. Today, we are creating a ride-on car for students with physical disabilities as a substitute for electronic wheelchairs. This adaptive technology will help children ages 2-5 with disabilities to transport and enhance their coordination and body use skills through the use of these cars. " 

When working in Mr. Whitehorn's class on assignments involving technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering (mechatronics), what are the advantages of working on a team? "The advantage of working on a team is that everyone has so much to bring to the table, everyone has so many different skills and perspectives they can contribute to the project with. It’s really crazy how it works out: we have Clint who has the most experience with the mechanics, design, and social aspects of engineering, we have Daniel who is the mastermind behind the engineering and computer-aided design of our projects, we have Grace who seizes and prepares beneficial modifications of our prosthetic and researches thoroughly our project domain head-to-toe, we have Erik who is our tech-guy, designing our smallest and most crucial parts of the project on CAD-Solidworks, and there’s me, the medical and math guy behind the project, everywhere from researching to recording and calculating measurements. There couldn’t be a better variety of team members for such an awesome experience. " 

Share a specific project or experience in this class that has connected with you/made you think differently. "Last year Clint, Daniel, and I made a prosthetic for hand amputees playing sled hockey. Although our prosthetic was designed for the narrowest category of society, we took a lot of pride in making a difference in our community even in the smallest way. This project demanded everything from physics, math, and mechatronics from us, but aside from the engineering of our prosthetic, we had to get to know the type of person we were making this for. We spent time getting to know the sled hockey community through our mentor Chandler Couture (a junior national sled hockey team member), he gave us a lot of insight on the sport, as well as the people playing it. Through Chandler and some further research, we came to learn that many of these sled hockey hand amputees were war veterans. These people had type-A personalities, they weren’t the type who look at themselves as disadvantaged citizens, they weren't the type who would want some robotic prosthetic doing the work for them. Which is why we decided to design a body-powered prosthetic, so the athlete feels like they are the ones who are putting in the work. This project meant a whole lot to us because we knew the potential difference our prosthetic could make in the lives of others. We weren’t used to such personal analysis to base our design off, we were used to the science, math, and engineering analysis behind it all. But this project forced our thinking towards the ethics, and that is what has shaped this prosthetic so much." 

Thank you to Mr. Whitehorn, Shayan, Clint, Daniel, Grace, and Erik who shared their experiences. 

We would love to highlight other classrooms that use technology to apply student thinking to solve community needs/issues. Let us know if you would like to share what is happening in your classroom.