Facing the real world with knowledge and skill

Pictured are Andrew Fussell, Ethan Maness, Christopher Tambunan, Kevin Gallardo, Elizabeth Jones, Ishmael Domingo, Taneisha Huff, Hannah Turner, Nick Turner.

The Fort Payne High School Real World Design team recently competed at the national level this month.

Fort Payne’s team is known as The Fort Payne 7 and is comprised of seven team members of many different ages, interests, and personalities. The Fort Payne 7 has successfully won state for 7 years, each time representing the state of Alabama at the national level.

The Real World Design Challenge is an annual competition that provides high school students, grades 9-12, the opportunity to work on real-world engineering challenges in a team environment. Each year, student teams are asked to address a challenge that confronts our nation’s leading industries. Students utilize professional engineering software to develop their solutions and will also generate presentations that convincingly demonstrate the value of their solutions.

Hannah Turner, team sponsor and teacher at FPHS, said the students have to design a drone that can accomplish tasks that will help in a real-world environment.

The RWDC provides students with opportunities to apply the lessons of the classroom to the technical problems that are being faced in the workplace. The team must collaborate with each other as well as with mentors throughout the challenge and learn many valuable lessons in teamwork, communication, and higher-order thinking. The team uses 3D modeling software that is currently being used by engineers, helping students to become familiar with the tools they will need in their chosen careers. The focus of this challenge has been largely Unmanned Aerial Systems. This year, teams were tasked with designing an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) capable of surveying plant health in an urban environment. The survey areas varied from a vacant lot, a park, and roads with a median. The ultimate goal of the design is to safely survey the area without harm to pedestrians or vehicles.

“They have to design a drone that will accomplish a task,” Turner said. “In some years its spraying a field for pesticides, or like this year, it was designing a drone that could be flown in a city like New York City.”

Local agriculturalists, school officials and engineers are contacted by students to serve as mentors for the project to offer advice in the design process.

“They have to work with mentors and they’ve contacted people from Boeing and NASA in the past and use those mentors to gain a better understanding of engineering concepts that they may not be as comfortable with right now,” Turner said.

Students submitted an 80-page notebook filled with research and designs, starting from their first day of work. The notebooks are judged at the state competition that the Fort Payne team won in December, moving them onto nationals this month.

The team traveled to Washington, D.C. for the national competition on April 11-14 where they competed against 23 teams from the United States, and 4 teams from China. While the team did not place at the national competition, they were able to tour D.C. and represent the state of Alabama with pride, Turner said.

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