Students Selected For International Competition
Three Waterloo High School sophomores have been selected to enter their Computer Aided Design (CAD) projects in an international competition.
Hayden Linehan, Colleen Pigman and Tanner Reed, who are all students in Craig Cowell’s CAD class, prepared projects for the make:able assistive technology design challenge sponsored by PrintLab, Autodesk and partners. This year’s challenge is to “design and make a product or prototype that improves the day-to-day life of someone with a disability or the elderly.”
Hayden designed an adjustable guide that helps readers keep their place in books, Colleen created a fidget wheel that helps students communicate their feelings and Tanner is making a device that helps people with Parkinson’s Disease grip writing devices.
“These are real-life examples,” Cowell said. “The kids found a need and that is the hardest part. Once you find a need, it’s easy.”
“It’s that personal connection that makes these projects special.”
Cowell and Director of Personalized Learning and Innovative Programming Toby Coleman mentored the students throughout the process.
Entries were due May 1 and results are expected to be announced by the end of the month.
Here is more about each project:
Hayden had one thought when he first learned of the project, he immediately wanted to develop something to help people with reading comprehension problems.
“I knew that there were reading guides out there, but I wanted to make mine different,” he said. “I wanted to make it so that the book didn’t have to be flat and so that it could adjust to the size of the book.”
Hayden sought the advice of third-grade students along the way and they have helped him develop a model that is adjustable and fits on smaller books.
“My first one was way too big,” Hayden said. “I needed to make the device shorter and make the clip smaller so that it fit on the book better.”
Hayden printed about 15 designs before landing on one that he was happy with. He said user feedback and trial and error were keys to his success.
“I feel like the only way that I can continue to improve my product is to fail and then learn from it and make it better,” Hayden said.
Colleen had an immediate personal connection to her project.
John Paul, her 7-year-old brother, has Fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that can cause development problems including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment.
“I wanted to do something for my brother because he is my everything,” Colleen said.
Colleen consulted with her mother and decided to reach out to a Fragile X parent group on Facebook to look for ideas. After pondering the suggestions, she came up with the idea of a fidget wheel with different colored sections. The wheel is five inches in diameter and each section (red, orange, yellow, green, black and gray) is associated with a different emotion.
“They can use the color on the wheel to express their mood and they can spin the wheel to fidget,” Colleen said.
John Paul enjoyed the wheel so much that Colleen contacted his teacher at Midlakes Education Center and asked if she could create and deliver wheels to his entire class, which she did in April.
Colleen admits that she “is not really a math person” and she learned a great deal while working to find the proper size and dimensions for the wheel and pieces.
The opportunity to share her project with others also helped Colleen to grow her passion for learning about technology.
“I love every class that I have taken here, and I am taking more next year,” she said.
Tanner Reed also views this project as a chance to help a family member.
“My grandfather has Parkinson’s and I have seen it impact his day-to-day life,” Tanner said. “I just want to make it easier for him to write so that he or anyone with Parkinson’s can write legibly.”
Tanner has had regular conversations with his grandfather, Richard Reed, while developing a pencil grip designed for patients with Parkinson’s. The thicker, heavier device helps users maintain a steady grip.
Tanner has been in regular contact with his grandfather throughout development. He shipped prototypes to Richard in Florida and has used his grandfather’s feedback to improve his design.
In addition to helping others, Tanner is developing a closer relationship with his grandfather.
“I am calling him a lot more than I usually did,” Tanner said.
Tanner went through more than 15 revisions before submitting his final design. Regardless of how he fares in the competition, he has enjoyed the experience.
“Mr. Cowell and Mr. Coleman have been the main people who have helped me here,” Tanner said. “I appreciate that I can bounce ideas off of them and get feedback. I hope to learn about defeat because I haven’t always been good at that. I feel that even if I don’t win, if I am able to help someone the project has been a success.”