Wallkill High School senior Connor Rhoades, who attends the Ulster BOCES Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics program, and his classmate Cameron France from Saugerties High School, are credited with creating a unique 3D prototype of a school bus door latch designed to ensure that school bus doors remain latched if air pressure dissipates from the bus.
Greg Sillins, an Ulster BOCES bus driver and former software quality assurance engineer, approached Sal Ligotino, Ulster BOCES Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics teacher, with an idea for the device. Sometimes, he explained, an empty school bus will lose air pressure, which may cause the doors to not maintain a tight seal.
When Ligotino approached Connor and Cameron about the project, they jumped at the chance to tackle the challenge. This type of project-based learning helps students not only gain skills in their career field, but also develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. It also increases engagement in the learning process as students gain insights into real-life applications of the skills they are being taught.
Over several weeks, using the knowledge they learned in class and two different model creators–called Fusion 360 and MakerBot–Connor and Cameron designed a device. They then printed their first prototype using the classroom’s 3D printer.
Cameron said that in total they printed seven different versions of the latch. “It was fun to test the products we made,” he noted. “But when our efforts failed, it was back to the drawing board.” The failures are where deep learning happened, as the students analyzed their issues and thought out solutions.
Connor explained that they adapted the device throughout the process based on trial and error, cultivating some of the most powerful learning experiences. “Figuring out the structural integrity of the device was extremely important in this project,” he noted.
Both Connor and Cameron said that the project inspired them to continue in this type of work post-high school. Connor is planning to enter the Air Force, where he will be pursuing a career in computer science. Cameron plans to attend Hudson Valley Community College, where he will be enrolling in the engineering program.
Sillins was pleased with the students’ efforts. “I was impressed with what they created,” he said. Although this product isn’t anywhere close to being approved by the New York State Education Department, Sillins believes that with the proper testing, it could eventually be patented.
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