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Yes! EPICS Club makes connections

Anissa Gardizy

Anissa Gardizy

Joey Dupell prepares to answer questions using communication switchers.

Anissa Gardizy, North Penn High School

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In today’s economy, the average consumer rarely comes across a product that is “made in America,” so when they do, they feel a sense of pride and community. The same feelings of pride and community are true at North Penn High School with the Engineering Projects In Community Service Club (EPICS). The organization strives to bring the community together with products that are “made in North Penn High School.”

EPICS is comprised of research teams that work on engineering projects while engaging in the community. This year, one of the community research teams took up an idea that was presented to them by the Special Education Department.

“Our department was going over a list of things that we needed to order, and communication switchers were on that list,” said Special Education Assistant Brian Pellechia.

Communication switchers allow students to answer questions by manually pushing a button that produces a sound response. The buttons allow the students to answer with a phrase such as “yes” or “no” to questions when they are asked.

“The kids love them. In addition to answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, they also use them to communicate if they want a drink or a break, so they are really important in their daily education,” said Pellechia.

However, these products can cost anywhere from $175 to $300. Pellechia, however, knew that the student engineers at North Penn could tackle the challenge of making their own model at a cheaper price.

“I knew there had to be a cheaper way to make the communication switchers. Our engineering department here at North Penn is excellent, and they are always looking for new projects to work on,” said Pellechia.

After the club heard about the communication switcher project, they agreed to begin working on their own model. Since September, the club has been working on a prototype to present. The EPICS students were not only challenged with making their own circuits and cases, but also making their own amplifier for the switcher.

“We had to make an amplifier by scratch. We made it on the computer, printed it out, and then put all of the pieces together,” said sophomore Cailee Pearson.

Overall, the research team was successful in making a working prototype that was ready to be tested.

“The process was fairly easy. We had some mistakes and did have to do some troubleshooting with the amplifier, but other than that the process went smoothly,” said sophomore Madeline Sinclair.

Upon presenting the prototype, Pellechia explained to the club members how the communication switchers were used in the everyday lives of his students. Joey Dupell, a student at NPHS, was the first student to test out the EPICS Club prototype.

Pellechia taught the EPICS students how to use the communication switchers, and he then let them test their model with Dupell for themselves. The students presented pictures to Dupell and then would ask a yes or no question. Depending on the answer, Dupell would either push the “yes” or “no” button, and Pellechia would record his accuracy.

After analyzing their prototype in action, the EPICS Club is now working on modifications to make their prototype as accommodating as possible.

“It was so cool to see our prototype in action, because now we know what we need to change to make it even better,” said sophomore Kathryn Von Abo, “Seeing the happiness on the kids’ faces after they pressed the button made us feel really good.”

EPICS Club Advisor Mr. Michael Boyer was very pleased with the prototype that his students produced, because it could perform the same functions as the more expensive switcher for an unbelievably lower price.

“Our model costs us under $20 to make, and it has a custom voice recording feature as well. I’m so glad that we got students to help other students here at North Penn,” said Boyer.

“It was really great to see the regular education students working with the special education students. It was an awesome way for students at North Penn to come together for a common goal,” said Pellechia.

Read the original story here.

 

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