One of the hallmarks of Career & Technical Education (CTE) is providing students with skills and tools with practical application. All of Questar III’s CTE programs strive to give students opportunities to troubleshoot real problems that can be fixed.
Questar III Director of Health and Safety & Operations and Maintenance Craig Hansen posed a challenge to any Questar III program with a 3D printer. One of the services the Health and Safety team provides is cleaning and testing smoke detectors for the BOCES and its districts. The best way to keep smoke detectors clean and functioning properly is to dust them out using canned air.
To reach ceiling-mounted smoke detectors, technicians use 20-foot extender poles with the aerosol can mounted to the top. The tip of the pole is rounded and is designed to press the button and release the air. However, it hasn’t quite worked as it’s supposed to. The Health and Safety team needs something better to control the tip of the can to reduce wasted product and staff time. Hansen asked if students might be able to figure out a solution.
“This was a practical problem that we have in our fire system maintenance service. Students using the 3D printers might be able to see a fix that we’ve missed. The challenge is on,” said Hansen.
After taking a look at the extender pole the Health & Safety team currently used, REC IT teacher Lew Cappelli asked Averill Park junior Keegan Mallory if he’d be interested in troubleshooting the problem.
Mallory determined it might make sense to build something with a larger surface area that wouldn’t slip away while depressing the tiny spray tip. He started with drawing some prototype surfaces using Trimble SketchUp, a design program used to create blueprints for a 3D printer.
After some trial and error, Mallory produced two different models to use on the aerosol can spray tip, one with a larger cap that would replace the original entirely, and the other a sleeve that fits over the tiny tip. Both are made of ABS plastic – the same resilient plastic that Legos are made from.
“It’s really cool to see your design on the computer screen and all of a sudden it becomes reality with the 3D printer. That’s why I like this so much, because things come to life,” Mallory said.
Collaboration like this offers several benefits. The Health and Safety service may wind up having several viable solutions to choose from and students like Mallory get the opportunity to tackle problems that he’ll likely encounter again and again in the future in this field.
Mallory said solving real-world problems is one of the reasons he chose the IT program
“This IT class makes so much sense to me. There’s always something to dig into. It’s real world problems being fixed.”