September 27, 2017 10:45AM
The junior from Girard High School, along with several classmates and their gifted education teacher, Dale May, have been engaged in a hands-on collaborative project at the Kansas Technology Center on the Pittsburg State University campus.
At more than 278,000 square feet, the building is approximately two football fields long and 1.5 football fields wide. Inside are more than 260 workstations, close to 70 technical labs for student learning, and $26 million dollars-worth of equipment.
And, the expertise of faculty.
It is that expertise that May sought out last year when his students expressed an interest in building drones.
“Dale asked about auditing a course, which he would have been welcome to do, but the timing didn’t work out with his teaching load during the day,” said Randy Winzer, a professor in electronics engineering technology.
So Winzer instead pointed him in the direction of resources, and then this fall welcomed the students to campus.
“They have to solder pieces together, for example, and I didn’t know how to do it well enough,” May said, referring to a process in which two or more items (usually metal) are joined together by melting and putting a filler metal into the joint.
They built prototype wings using PVC, but realized they needed far more accuracy.
“I’m learning, too — right along with them,” May said.
Under Winzer's wing one recent Tuesday, the students worked on soldering a power distribution board to be used in the drone's flight controller.
"Right now, we're just practicing on disposable boards from a hobby supply catalog," Sandford said without taking his eyes from his work surface. "I'm really interested in this stuff. I might do a career in electronics or something related."
Winzer, a 1989 PSU alumnus with a BSET in electronics, can offer advice to him in that regard, too: He spent 10 years in the industry before joining the faculty in 2000.
“I don’t think K-12 teachers reach out enough to higher education to collaborate,” May said. “With PSU in our own back yard, it’s just a tremendous resource to these students.”
As a bonus, May and his students got to work alongside Tammo Wegener, a student from Germany who is studying electronics engineering technology at PSU for a semester.
When Wegener learned of their project, he began working on his own drone along with them, and more collaboration took place.
“This is really the best kind of learning,” Winzer said. “It’s what we do here in the College of Technology.”
On Oct. 8, they’ll speak about their experience to other high school students from across the state at the Kansas Gifted & Talented Conference in Ottawa, Kansas.
“It’s collaborative. It’s trial and error. It’s complete Project Based Learning from start to finish,” May said. “And it’s driven by students and their interests. Pittsburg State has been awesome. We’re all so appreciative."