Inventions presented to judges to see which make the grade

She had just spent a year designing and building an invention she hoped would improve lives, and now Kiara McCrary was about to ask for the experts' honest opinions.


It wasn't that the A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School senior doubted her invention. It's that its success meant so much to her.

"I was presenting to one of my friends for practice, and I kind of had a breakdown," said Kiara, 18.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, more than 80 A.R. Johnson students presented their senior research projects to panels of health and engineering professionals. The projects count for 30 to 50 percent of their final nine weeks' grades and are the culmination of what they have learned in their high school careers.

The invention was more than a school project for McCrary. She thought of her idea as she watched her family struggle with her grandfather's bulky, solid wheelchair ramp.

"I wanted to make a ramp that was trifold, so it's almost like a little suitcase so it's easier for someone to carry it into a house or restaurant, wherever they may go," she said.

She took a model ramp to the judging session Wednesday, along with a toy wheelchair to demonstrate the dynamics.

Each student had eight to 10 minutes in front of the judges, who rated the presentations on content, communication, design and other qualities.

Some judges' favorites were a tool that cleans paintbrushes, a bottom locker protector that keeps students from bumping their heads on higher lockers and a PowerPoint presentation on the walk-ability of Laney-Walker Boulevard.

"I'm looking for students that are bright and think outside the box," said judge Chip Fiske, of Care Medical. "Something that's going to excite me and make me say, 'Hey, that's a great idea.' That's what engineering is all about."

The senior research projects are meant to make health science and engineering students solve real-world problems.

Aleks Holiday, the school's assistant principal for career, technical and agricultural education, said teachers begin asking students to think about ideas before senior year even begins.

"It's a process," Holiday said. "Some students just take it and gain ownership of (the project). Sometimes with engineering, the design you think you should do ends up not being done and your idea changes into something else. All in all, the students learn from it."

Brandon Monroe, 17, not only learned from his project but also invented something he could use in his daily life.

As a drummer, he realized the pedals to play bass drums are designed to be pushed with a musician's toe even though it's more comfortable to pedal with a heel.

He changed that by spending months in his workshop at home to design a pedal with an interchangeable heel and toe lever.

"It fits, and it's something I would use, so I think I did well," Brandon said.

Holiday interrupted him.

"No, you did amazing," she said.



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