Kearney scholars earn elite honors for biomedical projects

Kearney High School seniors Eliana Walker, Kennedy Jacobsen, Melanie Smith and Kaycee Maynard earn top 10 awards during the 2021 Project Lead the Way regional recognitions May 4. Almost 500 students from various school districts participated.

Kearney High School seniors Eliana Walker, Kaycee Maynard, Kennedy Jacobsen and Melanie Smith each garnered top 10 awards during a regional Project Lead the Way event recognizing students for their capstone projects. The virtual event was held May 4 and included entries from 446 students.

Every year, high school seniors who take PLTW engineering and biomedical sciences classes have the opportunity to develop innovative, high-tech solutions to challenges they’ve identified. Students conduct research and develop prototypes.

These capstone projects are then showcased and scored annually by the PLTW organization in the Kansas City region, according to Kearney PLTW biomedical sciences teacher Michelle Lawrence.

“These projects are always very impressive,” she said. “This year’s seniors worked incredibly hard and produced graduate-level research. This is a great accomplishment and I am so proud of them.”

Maynard and Jacobsen were recognized for their GIM prototype, a glucose insulin machine designed to be easier and more convenient to use than other similar machines.

“Our goal is to help relieve the stress experienced by Type 1 diabetics,” they wrote in their project report.

Smith’s Bracket CAP is designed to reduce discomfort experienced by people with braces. Her concept and prototype were deemed good enough for an Innovator Award, a $1,000 scholarship and an opportunity to make her idea a reality.

“Braces have been known to cause cuts, sores and irritation with little help from existing products,” she wrote. “Bracket CAP is a new, innovative way to twist a small plastic CAP onto the bracket of braces to ensure durability while eating and (during) physical activity.”

Walker was honored for her work to develop the BACH, Biometric Advanced Check-In for Hospitals.

“(The BACH) uses fingerprint scanning inside a modified pulse oximeter to provide a quicker, more accurate way of checking in patients and collecting vitals,” she wrote in her project report.

Other scholarly projects

In addition to Kearney students winning PLTW honors, other program seniors are also providing innovative solutions to real-world problems.

Andrew Wilson, a Kearney High School senior, believes the most important thing any student will learn is how to overcome challenges. He and his Project Lead the Way engineering classmates presented their capstone projects during a special event with Superintendent Matthew Miller and Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Kopp on May 5.

“This kind of real-world learning experience is important because we’re learning problem-solving skills,” Wilson said. “Where ever we are in life, we’re going to encounter challenges. We’re always going to need these skills.”

Wilson’s PLTW challenge started with his district-issued Chromebook laptop case. It was difficult to charge the device while it was in the case so he developed a prototype case with an extra-board charging port as a capstone project for teacher Shane Remley’s engineering class.

This year’s PLTW engineering class had to overcome the challenge of hybrid learning forced by COVID-19, which disrupted the student collaboration that normally occurs, according to Remley. The students identified and analyzed problems, researched solutions currently available, developed innovations and crafted a prototype.

“We were basically able to get through the design process,” he said. “These students have pulled through and got the work done.”

Other ideas presented by Remley’s classes included:

  • tent rain-fly embedded with solar panels;
  • biodegradable face mask;
  • foldable house for homeless people and refugees;
  • website to suggest what to watch based on personal preferences;
  • portable cup heater;
  • protective phone case that’s also easy to remove;
  • merry-go-round for children with disabilities;
  • microchip to track packages; and a
  • backpack with built-in camp chair.

This focus on student-built solutions extends to Kearney Junior High School. On May 7, ninth-graders in English teacher Alli Baldwin’s classes presented their ideas for increasing tourism to a panel of VIPs, including Kearney Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stacie Bratcher, Kearney Area Development Council Executive Director Shawna Searcy and Kearney Enrichment Council Executive Director Kurt Hamilton.

Avery Plummer pitched her idea for a monthly music festival in Kearney.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and I want to stay here. I went with this because of my own love of music,” she said. “This will bring the community together for a fun, family evening and support local musicians.”

Other concepts presented by junior high students included opening a Department of Motor Vehicles branch, a park designed for dogs with disabilities and a pickleball and food truck venue, among others.

These solutions are evidence young people are invested in the future of Kearney, according to ninth-grader Audrey Holland.

“As teenagers in the community, we would love to see the community shine,” she said.

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