Update: News from the WMS “Tech. Teams”

Linda D’Arco
April has been busy for the dedicated students and faculty of the technology programs at The White Mountain School. Read on for news from the Robotics Team trip to Nationals, the building of some new gadgets on campus and a recent trip to meet college engineering students.
In the first weeks of the month seven students and two teachers competed at the Create Foundation’s Vex Robotics National Championship in Council Bluffs, Iowa. You can read more about their journey to Nationals here. Prior to their departure, the team shared this heart-warming video at Morning Meeting about their work together this year.


In Iowa, the team made it through the first round of regular play and the second round or “groups of 16.” They lost in the quarterfinals, but were very proud of their work and the progress the team has made in its two short years of existence. team coach and Director of Technology Ben Moss noted that the team had overcome many of the stressors that you’d expect to find in a high-pressure environment. They help team building meetings to improve the dynamics of the group and battled logistical challenges with the robots arriving late in Iowa. Nonetheless, Ben said, “the team remained upbeat throughout our travels to Iowa, even with some unexpected delays on the return trip. Next year’s team is shaping up already and we’re hoping to do even better next spring. The new VEX Robotics “game” has already been announced and the students are meeting and strategizing for next year already.”


While the Robotics Team members were tuning up their “super bot” this spring, students who participate in the Electronics Club, also under the leadership of Director of Technology Ben Moss, were working to bring some new “tools” to the school community. This spring, Ben Ford ‘15 (who is also a Robotics Team member) was busy piecing together the school’s first 3D printer. Rather than purchase a new, fully assembled 3D printer, Ben elected to assemble one on his own. This is not easy work, and this writer, for one, has seen several students at other schools fail at a similar venture. Click here to watch a video of the new 3D printer in action.


Now the Electronics Club is working on building a high end drone of their own design. Moss says, “We could use the same amount of money to buy a really nice, pre-assembled drone, or….we could build our own REALLY nice drone for the same cost.”


It’s a theme that comes up often in White Mountain School technology programs. “Why buy it pre-made, when we can learn more from making it ourselves–and keep the Electronics Club busy at the same time,” says Ben Moss. Last year Jerry Li ‘15 built his own “super computer” so that he could work with a machine capable of processing renderings from the 3D animation programs he was teaching himself. This year he built a nuclear fusor and was able to achieve fusion in the Technology Office.


And just this week, WMS students traveled to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon to talk with Dartmouth College Thayer School of Engineering students and professors as they tested their hybrid cars with teams from about 30 other colleges and universities. “One of the biggest challenges that the college students in the challenge have is getting their vehicles to pass inspections,” said Moss. “There is an 18-page checklist for the electrical inspection alone. The day before the race only seven teams had submitted vehicles for inspection and only four had passed it.”


The results of the race itself are based on the performance of the cars and on the presentations of the work, which resonated with Moss as he thought about our School’s own LASR Project expectations. Teams were also judged on their interactions with the visiting high school students. “Jerry, Andrew, and Liana all related really well with the challenges that teams were facing because of their experience on the Robotics Team,” said Moss. “There were tight deadlines, last minute design changes, and then performance issues with the machines themselves, too. Our students were very engaged in the whole event. It was action-packed.”


Ryder White ‘15 said, “I heard engineering convention, and I was in! But, I didn’t realize that is was going to be so heavily based on mechanical engineering. I’m really interested in civil engineering. So where as mechanical engineers are designing and building the cars, civil engineers are looking at the banking angles of roads as they turn and how they can prevent accidents. But our tour guide at the Motor Speedway had also studied car crashes. He helped me see the synergy between civil engineers and mechanical engineers.” Next year, Ryder will study civil engineering at Drexel University.

Moss added, “the engineering that went in these cars varied greatly from one vehicle to another. The differences were what made it interesting– they had different transmissions, different means of reducing weight and different computer programs that make the gas engines relate to electric motors. To see the students working together was really inspiring. It didn’t seem like there were team leaders, but they did have their different roles, and that was good for our students to see, too. Its good to learn that you don’t have to do everything on a project, that you can contribute a portion of a project really well and be proud of your combined work with teammates.”

Click here to view a slideshow from the NH Motor Speedway hybrid car trip.

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