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Patton Students’ Invention Helps Local Industry

By Cheryl Shuffler

Burke County


Patton High School students received a project in conjunction with Advanced Hydrogen Technologies Corporation (AHTC) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) to design and build an apparatus which would repeatedly drop a 35-pound-weight from 2 feet high.

The project was given to Patton students in mid-April and needed to be completed by the end of the school year, around June 5. This required the Principle of Engineering class, under the direction of Clay Nelson, to come up with a timeline of which tasks needed to be completed. Once this schedule was completed, the work began by splitting students into four groups to brainstorm ideas. After a full day of brainstorming, each group presented to the class using various presentation methods to share ideas for the groups to use in another day of planning. Students then came together again to share changed ideas and plans. The groups then used robotics kits to prototype their designs. One design utilized a motor clutch in order to drop the weight, another used a slip gear and the last used a lever dropping mechanism. Once the prototypes were completed, the students decided on two designs to build using materials such as angle iron, wood, and various other items. One group started from the ground up and built the part of the mechanism, which would house the piece of granite and guide the weight so it struck the granite perfectly each time. The other group started from the top down and constructed the dropping mechanism first. As time was running out, the students then decided to combine their designs into what is now the completed mechanism which successfully drops the weight consecutively with no fail.

Pete Lohr, president, and chief technical officer of AHTC, said, “On behalf of AHTC, I would like to personally thank Mr. Clay Nelson and Patton High School staff and students for their support. Engineering staff and students assisted by designing and building an apparatus that will lift and drop a test article for the purposes of performing impact fatigue cycle testing with known impact energy and cycle rate. I witnessed the students participating and was very excited to see them enthused about being able to contribute towards a working solution. I was very impressed with everyone’s ability to come together and work as a team. The project came together beautifully in a relatively short period of time; the drop-test apparatus that they built is robust and works very well. The test results will be used for a new manufacturing process; specifically, it will be put to use for quantifying test article’s integrity of bond strength and the ability of the article to survive in a simulated environment that represents the conditions of a chisel mounted in a hydraulic breaker/hammer while being used to excavate granite rock.”

AHTC, a privately owned, small business in Hickory, works to find cost-effective alternatives to current products and manufacturing methods when safe high-pressure hydrogen, bonded dissimilar metals, and ceramics to metals are needed. Its goal is to create manufacturing jobs and bring a full range of job opportunities for Burke and Catawba counties.

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam said, “We would like to thank AHTC for believing in our students and giving them this opportunity to take a real-world problem and use their engineering skills to design and build a solution. This is the perfect example of how we seek to connect education to industry. It’s a win-win for everyone. Our students gained real experience and AHTC benefited by having a problem solved by young, creative minds.”


Cheryl Shuffler is the Public Relations Officer for the Burke County Public School System