By Sue Moore
Western Michigan University hosted 54 Vicksburg High students from Greg Mills’ mechatronic classes at an Innovation Expo. Three of the projects proposed by these students won first, second and third place at the event.
Mills teaches 98 mechatronics students in a classroom setting throughout the school year. The knowledge they gain helps students learn to design, build, program and troubleshoot electro-mechanical systems. The goal is to prepare students to be able to step into the workforce out of high school or send them on to a two-year college degree offering. Some of mechatronics jobs in the business world include engineering or technician positions in control system, data logging, instrumentation and software.
WMU also invited students from Sturgis, Schoolcraft and Gull Lake to the Innovation Expo, with Donya Dobbin’s team from Schoolcraft taking the popularity pick from the judges.
The students had to create a product or service that is unique and innovative, with a real need in the marketplace. They had to provide an operational prototype model to demonstrate its utility.
The students could use a current product or service but they were required to create new modifications to that product or service, Mills explained. “It’s a bit like Shark Tank, when the judges have play money to spend as they come through the exhibits. The students have to sell their idea to people passing by. This involves soft skills where they need to interact with people who will give them the play money for the quality of their innovation. The exhibits with the most money at the end of the day are declared the winners.”
The exhibit required a tri-fold table-top display board describing the problem, solution and how to get to that solution. A complete description of the product or service also had to be explained. Then the students had to present their innovation to the judges.
Taking first place from Vicksburg were Kyler Dean, Bryce Chapman and Tyler DeVries. They invented the Athletic Cleat Cover which is designed to be used with all types of cleats and spikes. The purpose is to protect the sharpness of the cleats and spikes, all the while preserving the shoe’s aesthetics. The team was collaborating about sports and came up with the idea for the product. They modeled it in CAD so the cover would slide over the top of cleats to give better traction and prevent damage to flooring.
Another team from Vicksburg, Linkoln Kowalski, Brayden Martin, Jacob Weeks, Landyn Buiskool and Adrian Knauer, took second place for their idea to make a heated wheelchair pad. Third place went to Keagan Ellsworth, Kaeden Shubnell and Skylar Johns. Their invention was a platter and glove attached to it underneath to keep from tipping.
Electronics and mechanical components work together to make up complex systems from a car to a robot to automation lines. Students in Mills’ classes learn about electronics, robotics, equipment controls and sensors, programming, hydraulics/pneumatics, CAD/CAM, basic machining and CNC.