SMS Students Place First at Southeast Polk Tech Expo

Two Waukee South Middle School (SMS) students created an invention that earned first prize at the Southeast Polk Tech Exposition. With supervision from SMS engineering teacher Cole Kleinwolterink, Gavin Lange and Adrian Valluppara invented a robotic device called Forward Detecting System (FDS).

The boys created FDS to give visually impaired people the ability to easily navigate through the challenges of their everyday lives. The device is worn by the user and lets them know when there is an obstruction up to one foot in front of them.

“When I noticed the expo was open for grades six through 12, I thought I would challenge students in my robotics Interest Group to create a project to submit,” said Kleinwolterink.

In preparation for the exposition, the students met with Kleinwolterink every Thursday morning during Interest Group time starting in February. Interest Group is an initiative SMS started during the 2016-17 school year. This time allows students to connect with other students and teachers who share similar interests in topics ranging from robotics to yoga to fishing. Because Lange and Valluppara were passionate about their project, they made time outside of Interest Groups to work on it before school, during study hall and at home.

“Our teacher, Mr. Kleinwolterink created a safe, innovative and engaging space for students to explore coding as part of our buildings Interest Group initiative. He took time outside of his school day to allow students to explore and connected them to this contest. He has been such an amazing addition to SMS and Waukee through his work with Lego League, the engineering program, coaching and connecting with students on a daily basis,” said SMS principal, Doug Barry.

At the expo, FDS was judged by three criteria: Proper Planning, Complexity of Project, and Quality of Workmanship. Lange and Valluppara received the highest rating of ‘Superior’ for each category, which earned them a blue ribbon and a gold medal for Superior Workmanship.

“Watching students problem solve and find their own unique solutions as they passionately work on a project is amazing and frankly, it is the reason I love teaching Engineering,” said Kleinwolterink. “I may have inspired Adrian and Gavin to participate in the expo, but seeing what amazing things they are able to create is inspiring to me as their teacher.”

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