PITTSFIELD, MASS. — Designs for a capo slide for a guitar, a six-chamber perfume bottle and a fork lid for a pickle jar showed the imagination of the top participants in the SolidWorks design contest for grades seven through 12 held at five Berkshire County schools. A total of 55 contestants took part in the competition. The contest is sponsored by the South Berkshire Educational Collaborative, the School-to-Career Initiative, Medsource Technologies Inc. of Pittsfield, and SolidVision Inc. of Oxford, Mass. SolidVision Inc. SolidVision sells the SolidWorks software.
The winners were honored at a reception and tour held at Medsource April 27.
The program offers students an opportunity to show what they can do using three-dimensional solid-modeling software. Students wrote a paper about what they wanted to do, then used the software to prepare a model.
"They had to communicate the idea — not only graphically but talk about it as well," said Jeff Parkman, a teacher at Mount Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown, Mass.
Matthew Burgess, a senior at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, Mass., claimed first place in the Grades 11-12 competition. His practical idea came from his guitar playing. The capo slide is a moveable bar attached to the fingerboard of the guitar that raises the pitch of all the strings. Burgess said he had seen each item individually, then put them together.
"They were very hard choices to make," said Chip Schnackenberg, a Medsource designer and one of the judges.
"We looked at the creativity — was it existing? We looked at how they used the software and the overall presentation," he added.
For grades nine and 10, Amber Godfrey and Kaytee Martin of Mount Greylock Regional High School combined to design a six-chamber perfume bottle for first place. The design allows a traveler to carry six different fragrances in one bottle. It was a two-part entry — the bottle and the cover, which is used to select one scent at a time.
Benjamin McKeen, a Mount Greylock schools seventh grader, captured first place in the seventh- and eighth-grade division. He designed a lid that incorporated a fork, so that pickle users could pick out their choice without getting their fingers wet.
There were many more ideas on display. Second-place winners included Monument Mountain students Jonathan Edwards — for a device to inflate and deflate bicycle tires — and Matt Tracy — for wiper goggles; and Jake Scace of Mount Greylock for a telescopic fishing pole.
"Once these kids get on the computer, it really takes off. They come down in their spare time and work on their projects," said Fred McAllister, who is a drafting and design teacher at Monument Mountain High School.
The designs and the excitement for the program were music to the ears of Jeff Millard, SolidVision president. "Definitely there is progress from last year. The complexity of the designs show the progress," he said.
Paula Hatch-Sato from the Southern Berkshire Educational Collaborative said that the SolidWorks program was launched in fall 1998 at six local high schools. It was supported by the Berkshire Plastics Network, which wanted to help educate its future work force.
"When the teachers got proficient, they realized that the middle schools could benefit and gain an early edge," she said.
With the din of machinery humming in the background, this was a chance for a plastics company to impress those who train the work force and its future workers.