The energy flowed from student to student, just like power on a grid, at Innovation Academy’s first Product Fair, which took place on June 6.
The students, juniors and seniors, demonstrated a whole range of gadgets and devices that they had developed from scratch. Some of the products had been already invented, and some were entirely new, but most involved electronics.
One of the most ambitious projects was a remote-controlled blimp developed by three sophomore electronic students: Jonathan Berry, of Easton, Justin Harris, of Brockton, and Mike Hoppe, of East Bridgewater. The blimp included a balsam frame with propeller-motors that was connected to five helium balloons. The team also built a control box made out of wires and switches that could control the blimp’s directions.
“It was difficult, but I liked the challenge for the most part.” said Jonathan.
The exhibit was the finale of the second year of Innovation Academy, also called LE3AD. It is a separate academy within the school that combines five shops – Legal and Protective Services, Environmental Engineering, Electronics, Computer Networking, and Architecture and Design. This year’s curriculum focused on creating a mock town from scratch and providing it with town government, infrastructure, and power sources. The students voted on a variety of crime prevention laws, during monthly Town Meetings, and they also voted to make the town “eco-friendly.”
One of the inventions directly tied in with that theme. Electronic students Carl Raimondi, of Brockton and Maria Fernandez, of Mansfield, built a solar-powered traffic light and miniature house, wired with LED lights. The traffic signal was connected to a mini-solar panel built from parts of a solar kit/book. Their teacher, Paul Buck, guided the students while they were building the system, which included choosing circuits, building a print circuit board, and connecting it with wires. He said the students used the basic ideas from the book, but applied them to more advanced projects that required a lot of measuring.
“I wanted them to go beyond what it called for,” he said.
Another team – Nick Rivera and Neyshmarie Alicea, both of Brockton, built a crane and catapult system that could pick up a ball, deposit it into a spoon, and then hurl the ball into the end of a pipe. Nick built the crane and catapault, and Neyshmarie programmed them to move through a computer. Fellow students all crowded around the two, as they demonstrated their invention, and they all seemed to learn from the trial and error process. Different students helped them to move the spoon and pipe until it worked flawlessly.
Other projects included a bicycle with a battery-operated blinker, a Segway, a USB connector (portable device connector), a model-sized house that withstood hurricane winds, and a “Nanny Camera,” which could be placed inside a child’s room to video-record the actions of a caretaker.
Besides gaining knowledge in electronics, the students gained skills in ingenuity, team-work, and time management. Mike Hoppe said his group worked right down to the wire to have the blimp ready for the exhibit. He said they also learned how to troubleshoot a series of problems, which required them to “try harder.”
Though some of the students could not get their final projects completed and running by the deadline, they continued to work after the fair was over and finished before the school end. Adrian Niles, Andrew Silva and Sebastien St. Hubert, all from Brockton, built a Segway scooter from scratch, which required obtaining a lot of different parts in addition to many hours of labor.
Mr. Buck said that that type of project is usually done by seniors, but the sophomores wanted to tackle the challenge for the product fair. He said that Adrian got the Segway working just days after the product fair, and that it will be a great learning model for his classes next year.