PLTW team brings home top honors in state contest

Medford students Derek Tallman (l. to r.) and Payton Nelson with teacher Tracy Swedlund during the Project Lead the Way competition finals at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) last week. Not pictured is teammate Ryan Perrin.

When it comes to teaching, the destination is often secondary to journey.
This is especially true when it comes to the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program.
Three Medford Area Senior High (MASH) students demonstrated not only their skill in solving a real-world problem, but their ability to present that solution in a professional manner.
The PLTW team of Payton Nelson, Derek Tallman and Ryan Perrin placed first in a Wisconsin statewide competition for students enrolled in the PLTW Capstone course “Engineering Design and Development.”
The competition is designed to recognize and reward outstanding student projects and highlight the importance of engineering design and problem solving in STEM education. The team showcased their prototype and was honored during a “Competition Finalist Banquet” at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE).
The students designed a “countertop cummerbund.” The device uses suction cups to mount onto the edge of a counter and when someone slices things like bread or vegetables, the scraps can easily be scraped into a removable collection bin and disposed of without getting crumbs on the floor.
As part of the project, students had to identify a real problem and come up with a solution to that problem. They had to then do patent research to determine if and how other people had already solved this problem and how they could solve it in a new and better way.
Students then used computer models to design and build prototypes of their solutions. An important step in the process, explains teacher Tracy Swedlund, is for the students to talk with working engineers, manufacturers and people who would use the product in a real-world setting about the proposed solution to determine if it is viable product and get feedback in the design process. For example, in the case of the countertop cummerbund project, feedback from people in the food service industry led to the addition of a removable inner basket that could be washed in a commercial dishwasher.
For Swedlund, encouraging interaction between the students and the working professionals is a major benefit of the program. He said it is an important way of teaching students that trial and error are great learning tools and that the first prototype is likely not going to be the last one. While students get discouraged when things don’t go according to plan, Swedlund said that learning how to be resilient and overcome challenges is an essential skill to develop in the workplace and life.
As far as the competition, the students had to be able to present their results in a professional manner. The judges applied standards to each of the elements of the design and presentation and discussed their products. with the students

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