Students apply technology course to community issues

Michaela Lumpert, Campus Carrier news editor

 Senior Mariaha Kelly works on her group’s project, an incubator for premature kittens. Claire Voltarel | Campus Carrier

Students in the creative technologies Intermediate Design Studio are working with community partners to solve problems using different types of technology. This fall, the students in the class are working with a variety of organizations to solve real-life problems that include working with the Public Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) on creating incubators and working with a foot surgeon on new patient waiting-time technology. 

In general, the program’s other classes focus on teaching students how to solve real world problems with technology, and introduce the students to new ways to create solutions using technologies like 3D printers or laser cutters. 

“Our students get exposed to things that they just would never even have thought of before,” Zane Cochran, clinical instructor of creative technologies, said. 

This specific class goes beyond what students would learn in the introductory classes. Cochran, explained that Intermediate Design Studio was designed specifically to engage students differently than other classes in the creative technologies program. 

“The design studio class, it’s all about stepping outside your own comfort zone and going to try and sympathize and empathize with someone who is struggling with something and inventing a technology that is really going to help them,” Cochran said. 

This year, there are six groups of students working on projects that all solve problems in different aspects of the local community and far-reaching communities. 

Two groups in the class are working with PAWS. The first group, made up of seniors Mariaha Kelly and Rachel Bibbey, is making an incubator for premature kittens, while the second group is working on making toys for the animals to play with and be entertained by in their kennels. 

Kelly explained that the idea for the project came when she was able to visit the shelter and take note of the issues they had. First she learned about the influx of premature kittens that the shelter faces each spring. 

“Now when kittens are premature they need conditions that are similar to what their mother’s womb would be like,” Kelly said. “They need extremely high humidity, like 90 percent and very high temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Thus came the idea for an incubator that could take care of the kittens until they were old enough and healthy enough to be adopted. 

The second group, comprised of senior Joey Pratt and juniors Andy Butzow and Adam Fleck [working with PAWS], is building interactive toys to keep the animals entertained in their kennels. 

Another two groups in the class are working with CEVIAN Design Lab, an architectural design lab in Rome, to help solve two different problems. The first CEVIAN group, made up of senior Jackson Stewart and juniors Luke Steele and Jack Connally, is trying to help a community just across the world from Berry in Hawaii. 

Currently, Hawaii ships their recyclables to China in order to be recycled, but due to a recent new law in China, the country is no longer receiving foreign recyclables. 

With CEVIAN, the group is hoping to invent technology that can be used to create building materials out of plastic.

 Senior Paul van Wingerden codes for his project that aims to assist a local Rome podiatrist. 

The second group working with CEVIAN, which consists of seniors Stephen Arena and Miles Mitchell and junior Chase Sumner, is trying to solve the homelessness problem faced in multiple communities in Hawaii. As Cochran describes, they are currently working on building portable, lightweight shelters made out of bamboo. 

The last two groups of students are working with podiatrist Steven LaPointe. The first group, including seniors Paul van Wingerden, Kristian Anderson and Cory Mullins, is trying to solve a problem that LaPointe is having with patient wait times. 

“They are inventing smart patient tracking technologies that allow the doctor to actually progress the patients through their appointments throughout the day so that they can get out even quicker,” Cochran said. 

Van Wingerden is working with the group to create a system that visualizes and tracks the waiting times of patients and the time patients spend alone with no treatment. Then, as van Wingerden describes, LaPointe will be able to send staff to the patients who are alone, therefore increasing his overall patient experience. 

With the progress they have made, van Wingerden plans to see the group’s project completed and implemented by the time the class is over. 

“We hope to have a complete system made for him, but now we just need to code the patient queue which is made up of three categories: late, early and on-time,” van Wingerden said. “Dr. LaPointe should be able to implement the system immediately after its finished at the end of the semester.” 

Senior Hunter Abel and juniors Cooper Foster and Kyle Brown are working in the second group with LaPointe that is creating a system to track the staff and their performance.

The group currently faces the problem of learning new coding language that combines a variety of skills in order to work with it. The two coding languages that the team is working with are called PHP and HTML. 

“Our hardware development is almost finished and our software is coming along,” Abel said. “We are learning a new programming language, which combines PHP and HTML to create the actual system of tracking the employees and measuring how well they are doing.” 

Even after the class is finished, the projects the students create still tend to impact the community. Last year a group worked with the Davies Shelter, a shelter created to help the low-income and homeless community in Rome, to create a food truck in the food desert in Rome.

According to Cochran, a food desert is a community that does not have continuous access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The group of students worked to build a bus that would transport fresh food from local community gardens in Rome and Floyd county that had an abundance of fruits and vegetables to the food desert. 

“My students’ solution was to take a 32 passenger bus, tear up all the seats, and they ended up converting the bus into a mobile farmers market,” Cochran said. 

Today, the bus is still out in the community every Tuesday and Thursday serving the community. 

“It’s an awesome opportunity for them to be innovative, creative, and to help people through this problem-solving approach that they put into practice,” Cochran said. 

One of the challenges that the students often face in the class is solving problems that haven’t been solved before. It leads students to experiment with solutions that often don’t work the way the students want it to. 

“In creative technologies, we have this mantra that we fail often, we fail fast, and we fail forward,” Cochran said. “When you are trying to do something that is innovative, something that has never been done before, chances are it’s not going to work the first time. So one of the challenges that our students have is that they will try something and it doesn’t work perfectly.” 

From there, Cochran explained that students also face the issue of being patient while they work through their problems, trying to find what went wrong and how it can be fixed so that it works the correct way. Cochran encourages his students to keep working on their projects and work through their moments of difficulty because the results are often the solutions they have been looking for. 

The class has proven to be successful not only in creating projects for the community, but also for helping shape possible career paths, as Kelly described. She already is working with outside companies on creating and experimenting with printed circuit boards, or PCBs, which she is trying to implement in her project. 

After this class, Abel plans to use the coding he’s learned to help find him a career. Because of this class and other classes in the program, he has discovered his love for learning new coding languages associated with building websites. 

“I like to develop websites, so I’m actually having fun using the HTML (coding) and learning that website coding is the right thing for me,” Abel said. 

The class also challenges students with fun tasks that engage every aspect of their minds to solve problems, making it more of a hands-on class rather than a lecture-based class. 

“I think this is rapidly becoming one of my favorite classes that I have taken here at Berry,” Kelly said. 

Cochran hopes that this class will help students find a career path and then be able to use the skills that they have learned in class in their new jobs. 

“It’s a class that challenges our students and puts them out of their comfort zone a little bit and at the end they come away feeling confident that when they graduate they can go into an industry and a job where they are going to be able to rely on those same skills to identify problems and make new technologies that will change the world and how it works,” Cochran said. 

For an inside look on the projects and how they function, follow the story’s continuation on Viking Fusion at 

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