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$150K grant for real-world engineering

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Food trucks may have their avid followers, but in nine months or so, villagers can look for a small fleet of food “trikes” to join the outdoor culinary ranks.

Similar in concept to food trucks, trikes are significantly  smaller and rely on pedal power, like that of a large tricycle, to get around.

A collection of such trikes are expected to hit the streets at the end of the school year thanks to engineering students at Yellow Springs High School.

The project is one of several new engineering opportunities for high school students this academic year resulting from a grant awarded earlier this summer by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, or ODHE.

The two-year $149,999 grant will support a new engineering class that in addition to creating the trikes will offer students three college credits through Clark State Community College and serve as the foundation for a pilot internship program with SAS Automation in Xenia.

The most public aspect of the class, however, will be the design, development and construction of the food trikes, said Dawn Boyer, the school district’s director of advancement, who wrote the grant proposal in collaboration with Clark State staff.

The grant requirements involved multiple components, Boyer said. The underlying purpose for the ODHE was to “create new STEM pathways for high school students,” she said. (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.) “They were looking for partnerships between schools or districts and college credit-plus programs.” which allow high school students to take classes in which they simultaneously earn college credit.

But this grant included further stipulations. “There had to be an industry partner” that could provide “real world, hands-on experience in a STEM-related career,” Boyer said.

Yellow Springs found that partner in SAS Automation, whose owner and president Trent Fisher lives in town.

The Xenia-based company, which has several offices around the world, makes “end of arm tooling for robots.” Specifically, the manufacturer constructs the pinching mechanisms, often called the “hands,” at the end of robotic arms.

A handful of students in the high school’s new engineering class will have internships with SAS during the school year, Fisher confirmed.

“They’ll see how the concepts they learn in the classroom can be applied in a work setting,” Boyer said.

What’s more, she added, the program gives the school district “an opportunity to pilot an internship program at the high school. We’ll be able to refine those structures and expand it to other industries.”

Winning the ODHE grant represents something of a coup for the district, Boyer said, noting that the agency had divided the state into seven districts, planning to fund a project in each of the seven regions. Only two such awards, however, one of which was for the Yellow Springs initiative, have been conferred, suggesting the difficulty in meeting the requirements.

“It was very challenging to align all the pieces,” Boyer said.

Clark State will serve as the fiscal agent of the grant, Boyer said. The Springfield-based community college also will provide the basic curriculum for the class, which will be taught at Yellow Springs High School by Steve Bleything.

The students who will be interning with SAS will serve as team leaders in the classroom developing the food trikes, each of which is to have a robotics component.

“It’s also important to note that it’s in keeping with our project-based learning philosophy,” Boyer said. “Our students will be working on a real-world issue or problem.”

And the benefits will extend into the community.



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