CAMAS — Whatever needs are next in the pandemic, Bruce Whitefield knows his engineering students at Camas’ Discovery High School will meet it by continuing to develop innovative solutions.
“I don’t know what’s going to come out,” he said, “but it’s going to be something.”
That something out of Camas continues to be for the greater good.
What started as a club project months ago to answer the call for personal protective equipment has stretched into a fall full of creating desk shields and stanchions for the Camas School District and community.
Students formulate designs at home through remote learning, but the school’s fabrication lab is where production comes to life. The classroom features advanced computer-control equipment, including 3D printers, plus CNC machines, a table saw and laser, plasma, and vinyl cutters.
Whitefield does all teaching online, but running tools is where small-group learning after school comes in. Students easily met Whitefield’s challenge of developing stanchion designs for less than $20 in materials.
The eye and face shields were a fun, rewarding project, junior Jordan Ruseoliver said, but stanchions hit other problem-solving criteria, too.
“It’s a good project to see if we can cut down on price for bulk,” he said.
Their goal is to make 108 stanchions — complete with chains or retractable belts, depending on design — by the end of December. Batches of completed stanchions will be distributed to schools districtwide and sold locally for a fraction of what they might traditionally cost.
“Now,” Whitefield said, “we need to direct traffic more than ever.”
The fall projects by Discovery’s engineering students is an expansion of a spring project to assist health care workers. Camas’ robotics team, Team Mean Machine, designed, produced and printed eye and face shields for health care workers when personal protective equipment ran short early in the pandemic. Since then, eye and face shields have topped a combined 22,000 for 95 health organizations.
And now, they’ve added desk shields and stanchions to their project experience to keep students’ skills sharp in a real-world application.
“It’s nice to be here in the shop to do this project because we can learn how to actually bring it to life,” said Oscar Jarrell, a junior.
Principal Aaron Smith said hands-on projects like these at Discovery and neighboring Odyssey Middle School, project-based schools that opened in 2017 on the Pacific Rim campus, are what the schools are all about: teaching the content for letting students work on real-world problems.
“This project right here covers all of that,” he said. “Project based on cost, designing it, producing it, and contributing to our situation.”
Jarrell and Ruseoliver are members of Camas’ Team Mean Machine that had its competition season cut short in March when schools closed. Helping the greater good through innovative ideas is time well spent.
“It’s a great alternative,” Ruseoliver said.