High school students in a suburb of Minneapolis are building a better identification badge interface system. Seriously.
Brent Barclay and Cory Spawn used Stillwater Area High School's fabrication lab to design a system to protect plastic identification badges. The students hope to eventually patent and manufacture the system.
The students started their project at the request of Assistant Principal Aaron Drevlow, who was having problems with ID badges breaking and flipping around.
“Mine have broken in the past,” he said. “I prefer to carry my keys on my lanyard also, but I never had an elegant way to do it. When you wear a suit every day, you want one that is a little bit more fashion-conscious.”
Barclay, 16, a junior from Afton, said the district-issued ID badges with magnetic stripes can easily bend. “If it bends, it can break the magnetic code, and then it's useless,” he said. “Mr. Drevlow asked if we could come up with a way to add some fins on the back to give some stability to the card.”
The system, which looks like an upside-down U, glues to the badge and has a spot for a lanyard to screw in on both sides so that it will lie flat.
“When it's hanging, it won't flip around as easily, and it also makes the top half of the card more durable,” said Spawn, 16, a junior from Stillwater. “This stabilizes the card and is an elegant design. It lies flat.”
Barclay and Spawn worked with their engineering teacher, Todd Kapsner, to come up with the prototype. They used a computer program called Inventor, a 3-D modeling program, to design the device and have been using the school's 3-D printers to produce them.
A half-dozen prototypes were lined up in the school's fab lab recently. “You can see the progression,” Drevlow said. “They started in the prototype phase and after each one of these, they could see what was working and what wasn't and how they could improve it.”
Senior Joe Klein, an Advanced Placement art student, recently was brought on board to help with the design's finishing touches.
One of Drevlow's requests: Use flathead screws to attach the lanyard to the badge rather than screws that don't lie flat. “It's more elegant that way,” he said.
Employees of C.G. Hill and Sons, a Mounds View, Minn. manufacturing business, are helping the teens with the final product, which will be made out of brushed aluminum.
“Their programmer looked at their prototypes and made some changes for the machining part of it,” Kapsner said. “It was going to be extremely difficult to machine it the way they had it, so they moved the 'fins' out to the edge. They're learning how to go from design to actually making it.”
Kapsner said their experiences will be a good lesson for other students.
“We'll do a little presentation to give them a better understanding of the whole design process and the engineering process and how you go from this drawing to a prototype to the actual product that you want to make,” he said.
Drevlow said he hopes that every teacher and staff member in the Stillwater district can eventually use the new lanyard-interface system.
The students plan to meet with an attorney to discuss getting a patent for the product. “That could be interesting,” Spawn said. “My parents thought it would look good on my college applications.”
Drevlow said he has appreciated getting to know the students during the process. “The point isn't the patent; the point is the experience,” he said. “Plus, I'll get to shake their hands when they walk across the stage (at graduation), and it will mean something. That's fun.”
But if the product is patented and manufactured, Drevlow joked, he hopes the boys come back and take him out to lunch after they make their first $1 million.