Something Old and Something New: Engineering Class Completes Three Projects

Explorations in Engineering is a Science elective offered in partnership with Purdue University's EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) High School program in which students work with area nonprofits to research, design, and make something that will fill a need or solve a problem for the organization. In the process, the students learn the engineering cycle and gain experience working collaboratively, interacting with “clients,” problem solving, public speaking, and — sometimes — using power tools!

This spring, the 11 students in the class took on two projects for a brand new partner, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, and one for an existing friend, Sprout Therapeutic Riding, located in Aldie. They recently presented their project solutions to their classmates and a variety of interested faculty members. Read More to learn about the individual projects.
Two of the projects, both concerning endangered species, were completed for Dr. Jared Stabach's team at the SCBI. STEM Department Chair and Engineering teacher Dr. Maria Evans connected with the group at one of Foxcroft’s drone flight days last year and thought her students would be excited to work with a national organization that is dedicated to saving endangered species. The specific assignments, though, posed new and different challenges for the students as they researched materials to use. Wood — which has been used in the vast majority of previous EPICS projects — was definitely not the answer.

The partnership also led to a cool new opportunity: holding a virtual learning session with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) National Eagle and Wildlife Property Repository in Denver, CO in early April via Vidyo, a video conferencing platform. 

“We were a beta test class for them as they are working to build their virtual classroom presence,” explained Dr. Evans. “The girls really enjoyed this session despite a few technical glitches. They were introduced to the repository, what things are housed there, how they are confiscated, and so on. It was fascinating and really helped bring their projects to life for them.” 
 
 
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Scimitar-Horned Oryx Horn Project
Team members: seniors Mia B. and Izzie C., junior Grace M., and sophomore Madeleine W.

The Smithsonian Team was looking for better ways to track the rare scimitar-horned oryx and asked students to create a replica of the animal’s horn that could hold a GPS or other tracking device. By studying a sample horn from the SCBI, they discovered the specific traits they needed to replicate and decided to make a mold from the borrowed horn to create their fake one. Figuring out the best materials for the mold and for the horn itself took a lot of research, false starts, and trial-by-error experiments but they ultimately made a clay mold and filled it with epoxy resin to create a wonderful replica. The replica will allow them to test various means of attaching the GPS tracking devices.

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Pangolin Scales Project
Team members: Senior Renee X., juniors Lily F. and Matty H., and sophomore Meghan M.
 
Pangolins, a scaly anteater-like animal, are the most trafficked animal in the world. They are poached for their scales, their blood, and their meat. The SCBI team was hoping the the students could create replicas of poached scales that could be be tracked, helping law enforcement officials learn the smuggling routes being used and stop them. Unfortunately, pangolins are so rare that getting samples of their scales was half the battle. The students tried devising plans based on research and illustrations of the scales but when they finally located and borrowed some actual samples from the USFWS National Eagle and Wildlife Property Repository, they discovered that the scales are much smaller and thinner than they thought. Inserting a GPS device would be impossible so they had to come up with another plan, which includes using RFID trackers instead. In the meantime, they experimented with materials to figure out which would make the most realistic scales. They ended up with some very lifelike replicas! The team is delivering an entire batch of pangolin scale replicas, as well as the instructions for creating more.

Sprout Therapeutic Riding Activities Storage Cart Project
Team members: Seniors Ally C. and Mia M. and junior Clair N.
 
This team worked with an organization that Foxcroft has long had ties with. A number of our students volunteer regularly at Sprout, helping individuals with special needs ride, and previous engineering classes have completed projects for them. This time, the request was for a storage unit that could be placed in the riding ring and hold interactive games and other aids needed during lessons. Each of the three students in this group came up with her own design meeting the criteria and then, as a team, they evaluated them all, took the best aspects of each to design and build (yes, they used power tools!) a wooden unit. They delivered their project to the center in Aldie this week.

Well done, ladies! 
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.