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February 2019

We dedicate "The Credential" 2019 to the professional engineering community by recognizing the 68th Annual National Engineers Week, February 17-23, 2019.  The theme of National Engineers Week is "Invent Amazing".  We were inspired by the Keynote Speaker at the KSPE/MSPE annual luncheon, Dr. Vince Bertram, President and CEO of Project Lead The Way.  Dr. Bertram's message emphasized STEM and the young inquiring, creative, enthusiastic minds of students.  He challenged all in attendance  to embrace, support and grow our youth with vigor.  This month's article features guest author Levi Madden who was student Manufacturing Director of a prize winning STEM Project. 

Introducing "Omni-Directional Wheelchair" and Senior Team Crimson, Summit Technology Academy Engineering Design and Development, Lee's Summit North High School, Lee's Summit, Missouri.
In his own words Guest Author Levi Madden, Manufacturing Director takes us on the journey of Team Crimson through failure and success and what achievement means...remember, "Invent Amazing."
About "Team Crimson"

Trey Weeda, Team Lead
Amanda Will, Team Co-Lead
Levi Madden, Manufacturing Director
Tyler Wascom, Lead Concepts Officer

Problem Statement

Electric wheelchairs do not provide users the full mobility required to maneuver within their daily lives. 

The Project

Team Crimson designed and manufactured a functional prototype.  The prototype features "Swerve" style drive and a robust build. 

We didn't set out to invent amazing, it just kind of happened.  As a group of high school students we were simply trying to complete our senior design project for the capstone course of Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and just graduate already.  Little did we know that in the second floor lounge of Summit Technology Academy, we would create an innovation that kicked off a wild ride for all of us. 

Just one day before our problem statement presentation was due in class, we were still at the drawing board. We were hoping to find a real world problem that we could solve with a new product...a problem that we could solve with a simple prototype within our manufacturing abilities, and still have a chance at winning the Engineering Design and Development competition later that year.  After a heated discussion on whether or not to design a new type of school desk, I looked over at Trey, my teammate both on Team Crimson and our high school robotics team, envisioning a drive train we both have always wanted to build, I said to him, "We could build a swerve wheelchair" and that's when all of our faces lit up. 
After getting some skeptical looks from Doc, our instructor, when we told him we wanted to build a wheelchair that not only was improved in its reduced turning radius, but also giving it the ability to move sideways, we embarqed on the largest most expensive project that Doc had ever seen in his class.  This journey was not an easy one.  We learned a lot about the engineering design process.  We learned that to invent amazing, your effort has to be amazing. 

Like any project, we had to start with research and learning, it was here that we learned about ADA requirements regarding wheelchairs.  We learned how to manufacture according to these requirements.  We learned how to become a brand, and be entrepreneurs.  Our research and learning phase did not end when it came time to design the prototype.  Learning continued throughout the entire process.  This learning often came in the form of failure.  Due to budgetary constraints, we had to 3D print the gears for the drive train.  We ran through over a dozen tests and failed prints before finally completing the set of almost 50 gears and pulleys necessary.
We failed at programming this complex drive style, even with help from an industry professional.  We learned more about what it takes to be an engineer than a teacher could ever tell us; by failing, learning, and trying again, and again, and again. 

After many days of staying after class, several late nights manufacturing and giving up our free-time, we were rewarded with an A and the top score on a presentation to a panel of 15 engineers at the end of our first semester.  This was followed by writing a 79 page report documenting our design process, working down to the wire and late into the night. 
Then we headed off to the Kansas City Engineering Design Senior Showcase to compete with what we had built.  We presented our project to investors, engineers, and STEM teachers.  At the end of the day, we were crowned First Place in the competition and one of six winners of the Innovator Award.

Summary of External Evaluation
Experts In the Design Process
During the initial design process, the team shared our design with a group of mentors on the high school robotics team.  We also gained input from mechanical engineers and machinists who approved of our design.  While they were skeptical of our plans to 3D print gears, they were optimistic of our use of carbon fiber infused filament.  This group of experts in the area of motorized drive trains thought our design was well thought out and were excited to watch the process of its creation. 

Engineers Review The Project
Team Crimson had the opportunity to present our project to a panel of 15 professional mechanical and sofware engineers. 

The presentation incuded a 20 minute powerpoint presentation followed by a question and answer period.  We provided a scoring template to rate our presentation content and presentation skills. 

Our instructor met with the team to review his scoring of the presentation and offered feedback from the engineers.  We were thrilled to  receive the highest score in the class. 

Feedback From The Engineers
The engineers wanted to know more about our attention to safety.  They recommended more research into the safety guidelines for wheelchairs including ADA requirements and testing maximum angle elevation the wheelchair can safely carry a person.  Several engineers suggested a seatbelt and padding in some areas of the product.  Over-all the engineers were very impressed with our project.  Statements include:  "Solid construction," "Impressive prototype quality," and "Obviously a very ambitious and well executed prototype.  Very complete in function, finish and documentation." 
We thought this was it..this was the end of a fantastic experience in engineering.  Boy were we wrong!  We were interviewed for a segment on local TV, we were invited to a "Make It Real" convention to explore further pursuing our product.  We were even told by Project Lead The Way and KCSTEM to apply to be featured on the Tonight Show "Fallonventions" segment for which we became a finalist.  As freshmen at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, the wheelchair still shows up in our lives.  Each of us on Team Crimson are lucky to draw knowledge from our experience in that design process.  We are driven to succeed because we know that inventing amazing can only be done by dedication, commitment, and a can't stop, won't stop attitude.  To invent amazing, you have to think amazing. 

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