Kaitlyn Sengenberger was looking for a way to pair music and mechanical engineering.
A senior and one of more than 20 students enrolled in the Advanced Computer Topics course at Grandview High School, Sengenberger knew she wanted to fuse the artistic and the scientific for her final project in the course. Considering the scope of that assignment, the task would be far from easy. The senior project represented the culmination of her entire senior year and, in a way, the whole breadth of her engineering studies as a student at Grandview. The final project was designed to fully test students' knowledge, discipline and stamina over the course of an entire year.
Finding a way to fit music into the rubric of the assignment would make it even more challenging, but Sangenberger found a way. Sengenberger, who is one of the only Grandview students to have passed the demanding Certified SolidWorks exam, set out to build a new kind of guitar, one with a collapsible neck that would be easy to pack up and store for long trips, and just as easy to reassemble and play after a long stretch being packed up.
"I really care about music and I'm a self-taught guitar player, so I really wanted to make something for this class that I would be invested in," Sengenberger said during her final presentation on April 22. Along with her classmates, she was showing off the end product of months' worth of hard work; her hand-built, painstakingly designed guitar sat on a display table as she spoke. "It is a prototype, of course, but I used T-nuts and thumbscrews to build this."
Sengenberger spoke with a discernible amount of pride, and she wasn't the only one who displayed similar emotions. The auditorium in the new wing of Grandview was packed with students and their friends and family members for two days, and the excitement regarding the crop of 21 senior projects was palpable. Students showed off original inventions that ran the gamut from quad-copters to car spoilers, all of which had been designed and manufactured via resources at Grandview.
"These are kids who have come through our applied tech or computer science departments. What the class entails is that the kids come in and find something they're passionate about, that they want to pursue career-wise and they spend a year developing it," said Rob Combs, who prefers to call himself a "CEO" of a virtual, student-led innovation company instead of a teacher. "They do all the research, they have to find professional advisors and they have to get a job shadow set up."
The students are also required to keep detailed journals and maintain a website. The final portion of the assignment included a public presentation of the final project, a demonstration that included an in-depth and detailed report to the entire class. John Kooy, for example, offered a slideshow regarding the "Reflex Wing," a car spoiler he designed, built and tested on a ZO6 Corvette at the High Plains Raceway north of Byers.
"To me, it's fun to sit back and watch the kids present their finished projects," Combs said. "To me, it's almost like the unveiling of Christmas presents … This group has been one of the best I've ever had."
The culminating event was just as exciting for students like Sengenberger, who'd spent nearly a year working on a single project. She plans to use the hard lessons gleaned from the project during her next academic adventure. She plans to attend the Colorado School of Mines in the fall and study mechanical engineering and physics.
"I did my presentation yesterday, and my stress level went down a lot," Sengenberger admitted. "I'm really proud of this. This department is fantastic, and all the help that I've had has been amazing."