South Park Middle School students complete capstone project
Eighth-grade students at South Park Middle School in Mr. Whittington’s class recently completed their “apocalypse challenge” projects. The month-long capstone project pushes students to use all of the skills they have learned over the last four years in Applied Engineering & Technology. Each group is challenged to build a machine that will run autonomously to solve an apocalyptic scenario including preparing food, rebuilding structures, finding survivors or moving medical equipment. Each team starts with the design process. They create brainstorming sketches and plan a solution on paper. After students have collaborated on a basic design, they work to plan the mechanical systems and synthesize what parts they will need to create a prototype with the Makerbot 3D printer. At this point, the design specialists start to use the 3D modeling suite Autodesk Inventor to create their new prototype parts, while the other members build the mechanical subsystems utilizing VEX robotic electronics and materials. Upon completion of the two tasks, the teams attach the system and utilize their knowledge of algorithms and programing to automate the machine and resolve the scenario. The final projects are demonstrated and presented to classmates and administrators to communicate their unique results and solutions to the problems. The solutions to each problem are unique and guided by the ingenuity of each group. Through this project, the students gain the experience of working in a real engineering team with different specialists who must be able to merge multiple systems (mechanical, electrical and programming) into one final product.