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Middletown Life

Fabricating their future

Apr 21, 2022 03:03PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
By Ken Mammarella
Contributing Writer

PJL Mirror Tech: A better way for drivers to see ahead of them

Jaylen Harrison was frustrated by being unable to see around all the big vehicles and farm equipment he encountered on Choptank Road as he drove his Hyundai Elantra to Appoquinimink High. That issue also spoke to fellow seniors Paul Sarro and Luis Zavala.

The result: PJL Mirror Tech, named for the three students, with the letters “in an order that sounded nice,” said Jaylen, who will major in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware.

The PJL mirror attaches with a suction cup to the driver’s side backseat window. The image, seen in the standard sideview mirror, lets drivers see around vehicles in front of them. It’s like “a third eye,” said Luis, who’s applied to Delaware Technical Community College and hasn’t picked a major.

Luis, whose father is a carpenter, took charge of the fabrication. Jaylen used his math skills to figure out the mirror supplied an extra 8 degrees of visibility, among other calculations. And Paul led their final presentation. They got advice from mentor Kevin Vandervort, a manager at Hoober Inc.

Their system went through multiple prototypes, ending with a round convex mirror and just one heavy-duty suction cup, said Paul, who plans to major in engineering at UD.

Road-testing with engineering teacher Stephen Landry ensured their PJL mirror didn’t detach when speeding up, braking suddenly and making sharp turns. All good.

New vehicles use cameras to increase field of vision, but the PJL mirror could be an easy accessory to older models, they believe. Installing it makes the backseat window unusable, Jaylen said, “but that’s a tradeoff that’s well worth the safety.”

Ecobrush: Better for your teeth and the environment

The Ecobrush improves teeth cleaning and whitening, in a convenient and ecologically friendly way, Middletown High seniors Sean Babbitt and Andrew Tosten have concluded.

“We took the best aspects of the major types of brushes on the market and projected them into one piece,” said Sean, who planning to major in aerospace engineering at Penn State or the University of Maryland or engineering at the University of Delaware.

The students in Cory Hafer’s engineering design and development class began their projects by listing 50 everyday problems. That showed the pair cared about pollution, particularly plastic pollution.

Toothbrushes should be replaced every few months, leading to significant plastic waste. That’s why their handle is silicone, which Andrew said biodegrades in five years, not the 50 for the bamboo handle on his toothbrush and several centuries for plastic handles (and the resulting microplastics are called increasingly villainous). Silicone is commonly used in utensils designed for nonstick cookware.

The Ecobrush uses charcoal bristles (more biodegradable than traditional nylon bristles, and they also help with whitening, like charcoal filters cleanse drinking water). And the brush screws onto toothpaste tubes and allows toothpaste to be delivered through a hollow shaft to the bristles.

The pair used 3D printing for prototyping, said Andrew, who plans to major in aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle. They also got advice from mentor Adam Binkley of TA Instruments.

“The Ecobrush is better for the environment and better for me,” Sean concluded.

Headlight Glare Reducer: A solution to a shared problem

Sam Anderson, Rami Masu and Dithya M. Shake considered issues as diverse as fishing and lawnmowers before they settled on their Headlight Glare Reducer. “A really fun way to learn,” Rami said of that process of considering problems, doing research and then developing a solution.

The Appoquinmink High seniors, all in teacher Stephen Landry’s engineering design and development class, tackled what Rami called the “really annoying” glare from other vehicles or other sources when driving at night. “It’s a problem we all had on back roads,” said Dithya, who plans to major in engineering but hasn’t selected a college.

True, rearview mirrors can tilt to ease the problem. Their glare reducer is a tinted acrylic screen that slides up to cover the mirror and filter out the glare. “It’s really convenient,” Dithya said.

They sprayed on a 35% car-window tint on the acrylic, said Rami, who plans to major in computer engineering at the University of Delaware. Velcro straps and a 3D-printed frame finished the gadget, said Sam, who plans to major in engineering. Jose Curras of W.L. Gore was their mentor.

Road testing showed that the reducer stayed in place. Data from a light sensor to measure glare reduction didn’t make sense, Dithya said, so they used a pass-fail test in the school parking lot, with the reducer in Dithya’s Honda CR-V and the high beams behind it in Rami’s Honda Accord. It passed.

Bear Bars: Ursine marauders kept out

Middletown High School seniors Conner Hertzog, Aiden Kleinmeulman, Christion Simms and Daniel Willis are concerned about hungry bears.

Aiden and Conner like to go camping, and that started the talk about protecting backpackers’ food from bears. However, the research by these students in Cory Hafer’s engineering design and development class found plenty of bear-resistant canisters. “They’re engineered like crazy,” said Daniel, who’s choosing among five colleges to study mechanical engineering.

So they pivoted to keeping bears from coming indoors. (Well after they finished their work, several black bears collectively dubbed Hank the Tank made international headlines for breaking into dozens of homes near Lake Tahoe to peacefully scarf down people food.)

Bear Bars feature closely spaced horizontal bars, with a dowel and cotter pin to lock them in place. They were designed for windows, with adjustable bars that could span 2 to 4 feet, Daniel said.

Mentor Dom Muzzi of Whiting-Turner “helped us to envision this and learn how to interact with customers,” said Christion, who plans to major in engineering, probably at the University of Delaware.

A $50 budget kept them from making Bear Bars in metal, so they did two prototypes in wood, said Conner, who plans to major in aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle.

They tested the bars’ strength virtually using computer-aided design, said Aiden, who will major in engineering at the University of Delaware.

Another key test was done in real life: Could people without instructions remove the bars quickly if they needed to? Not really, so they added a tab to the cotter pin to make it stand out, Conner said, and red arrows to show how to slide the bars.

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