Tyler Junior College recently hosted Aggies Invent Jr., a 1.5-day engineering design challenge for area high school students.
Led by a team of educators from the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, the event engaged students through an intense design experience focused on solving real-world needs provided by industry and agency partners.
Participating students were from Tyler, Whitehouse, Longview and Palestine. They were given a variety of challenges, such as working with teammates from schools other than their own, engaging in an active design process, building and testing their design, and finally presenting their product idea in a Shark Tank-style setting for select set of judges.
Dr. Rebecca Owens, TJC engineering and physical sciences department chair/professor, served on the panel of judges, which also included: Dr. Paul Buchanan, Kilgore College geology professor; Shana Dumesnil, director of supply chain innovation for Royal Philips, a health technology company; and Richard Grimsley, director of career and technical education for Dallas ISD.
Teams of about four students each were given a “needs statement” from an area industry that they then brainstormed, consulted with mentors and engineering professionals, conducted research and then built prototypes of their designs.
Student projects included:
• an elastic band that helps leprosy patients with hand deformities gain independence and perform daily tasks;
• a magnetic hand-crank device for users with limited access to electricity to charge phone batteries;
• a device to collect and recycle leftover plastic material from 3-D printers;
• a mobile app that can perform functions such as monitoring and dispensing implantable medications to patients, alerting caregivers and providing important information
Judges for the Aggies Invent Jr. challenge, held Saturday on the TJC central campus, included (from left) Dr. Paul Buchanan, Kilgore College geology professor; Shana Dumesnil, director of supply chain innovation for Royal Philips, a health technology company; and Dr. Rebecca Owens, TJC engineering and physical sciences department chair/professor.
The winning project was a wearable device akin to a leg brace that contains crystals that create and store electrical energy produced by the user’s running or hiking activity. That energy can then be extracted via USB port to charge an electronic device such as a mobile phone.
The scientific term for this process is piezoelectricity, in which an electrical charge is accumulated in certain solid materials such as crystals, ceramics and various biological matter such as bone and DNA, resulting from pressure or latent heat.
“The projects were very creative, and the students all brought very innovative ideas,” Owens said. “The winner used piezoelectricity — what an interesting, novel use of something that has been around and in use for other things for over a hundred years. It will be interesting to see where they go from here with those ideas.”
Owens continued, “It’s exciting to have Texas A&M Engineering represented here at TJC. The College of Engineering at Texas A&M is one of the top programs in the nation. It’s a very high-ranking, tough school to get into. They reached out to us wanting to use TJC as the location for this event, and I think that speaks well to TJC and our reputation. We’re proud to have that kind of a relationship with the A&M engineering program.”