GREENFIELD — Tuesday night was a celebration of innovation at Greenfield-Central High School.
Capstone Night, held each May for Project Lead the Way seniors, welcomed dozens of friends and family members of 30 students who came, ready to present a year’s worth of work to the public.
Project Lead the Way is a national program that provides students hands-on experience in engineering and science disciplines. At Greenfield-Central, PLTW students enroll in the school’s engineering or bio-medical academy, depending on their interests.
As part of their capstone course, PLTW students are instructed to identify a problem and find a way to solve it. For some students, that involves designing and building an actual prototype of a product. For others, the project is more research-based and is presented primarily through a poster explaining their findings.
For all involved, it involves months of hard work.
Students were dressed to the nines Tuesday to greet members of the public who walked from booth to booth to look at the displays.
Austin Gossett was one of the first to greet event attendees, as his project – a shelving system displayed inside a trailer – was one of several that couldn’t fit inside the school.
Gossett and partner Jacob Elsbury sought to solve a problem that had plagued them all through marching band season.
Gossett, who plays percussion, said he and Elsbury were often the ones entrusted with the back-breaking task of the loading the trailer with the instruments and props.
It wasn’t that the equipment was too heavy, but the trailer’s fixed shelving system prohibited them from standing up straight once inside the trailer.
“Me and Jacob were having to crawl under to load all of the equipment,” said Gossett, 18.
For their capstone project, they created shelves that utilize a pulley system, allowing them to be raised and lowered. While the project wasn’t completed until after the season was over, Gossett hopes their effort will prevent backaches for future students.
“We are actually going to give the entire shelving system to the band,” he said.
Carly Fernandes is another student who is passing her project on for the benefit of others. Fernandes and partner Elizabeth Fields studied the effects of playing video games on subjects’ reaction time.
Fernandes, a four-year member of the G-C swim team, suggested using competitive swimmers’ start times as a means of measuring reaction time.
The research showed that swimmers who played video games for 10 minutes were able to leap into the water more quickly than students who used those 10 minutes to rest.
Fernandes said the research goes against the notion that swimmers should relax between races and instead do something to increase their heart rate to help their time.
“Tenths of a second is huge,” she said. “Hundredths of a second is huge.”
The benefits of the capstone course are not limited to the completion of the projects themselves. Students agree the projects bring with them lifelong lessons – some of them quite practical.
“I had never used Excel before,” senior Samantha Guilden said.
Guilden, 18, did a research project focused on the benefits of having pregnant women carry their babies a full 40 weeks instead of scheduling early deliveries.
Because much of the data she needed was covered by privacy laws, she enlisted the help of a doctor at IUPUI.
“There was a lot of networking going on,” she said. “I gained him as a mentor.”
Many of the students’ mentors, as well as representatives from area universities, attended the event to celebrate a job well done.
Purdue University Representatives Harold Baker and Jacqueline Brown peppered senior Sara Jones with questions Tuesday night about her project, which analyzed the effectiveness of the popular sports drink, Gatorade.
As she made her way from booth to booth, Brown said it was evident the students had worked hard.
“It is really impressive,” she said.
After fielding the pair’s questions about her project, Jones said she was looking forward to the end of the evening, when she could finally lay a year’s worth of work to rest.
“It’s honestly a relief,” she said.