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Waterloo Sophomore Is Finalist In Design Challenge

A Waterloo High School student has been named a finalist in an international technology challenge for the second consecutive year.
Sophomore Colleen Pigman was chosen as a finalist in the Best Inspirational Story (14-18) and Best Use of 3D Printing in the make:able challenge, an assistive technology design challenge sponsored by PrintLab and Autodesk and Partners.
Colleen, a student in Craig Cowell’s Computer Aided Design (CAD) class, designed a fidget wheel that helps young students communicate their feelings.
“I didn’t believe it,” Colleen said. “It’s a pretty simple design.”
Simple? Maybe, but it certainly met the challenge to, “design and make a product or prototype that improves the day-to-day life of someone with a disability or the elderly.”
Inspired by her younger brother John Paul, who has Fragile X syndrome, Colleen set out to develop a project that would help John Paul. She contacted parents in a Fragile X Facebook group and sought out suggestions before opting to create 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.
John Paul liked the wheel so much that Colleen and her mother, Tiffany, and Cowell delivered wheels to each student in John Paul’s class at Midlakes Education Center.
“The need was there and finding the need is the hardest part of any project,” Cowell said. “Once you find the need, it’s easy. And this project also hit very close to home.” 
Colleen joins Abigail Baxter, who designed an adaptive writing tool last year, as Waterloo students to reach the finals of the challenge which saw more than 17,000 students from 70 countries enter in 2021. Abigail was a finalist in the Best Inspirational Story and Best Showcase of Iterative Design categories.
“It’s definitely nice to have two students in finalist categories two years in a row,” said Toby Coleman, Director of Personalized Learning and Innovative Programming for the District. “It shows that our programs are working for the students who are following through and being recognized in an international setting.”
While Colleen appreciates the recognition, she feels like she has already won by helping others.
 “It’s nice, but having the kids like it was even better than being a finalist,” Colleen said. “It helped my brother and his friends, which is more important.” 
Challenge winners are expected to be announced in early July.