Congratulations to our NOVA Fab Lab Design Challenge Winners for Spring 2022!
The NOVA Fab Lab held an in-person awards ceremony on Thursday, June 16th to recognize the Spring 2022 Design Challenge winners. As the ceremony’s highlight, students were able to see their designs realized as the actual fabricated products were revealed to them for the first time, alongside family members and friends. Participants also received their prizes, networked with judges and sponsors, and toured NOVA’s state-of-the-art Fab Lab after the event. This year’s challenge was for middle school, high school, or college students to design or refine a product to improve any area of their school. Sponsors for the Design Challenge were BAE Systems, Micron, Amtek Company, Digital Realty, and Dewberry Engineering.
Design Thinking and creative solutions to common challenges are a prominent feature in STEM education and the technology workforce, making the Design Challenge a touchstone for talented young minds to generate ideas in an equitable way. The NOVA Fab Lab’s mission is to decrease the growing skills gap in the Digital Fabrication arena by providing students a more holistic fabrication experience, including access to the most advanced processes, training in 3D Modeling and design, and a foundation in the principles of Design Thinking and creative problem solving.
With a goal of broadening participation and meeting students where they are at, NOVA allowed student entries in any format, including hand-drawn submissions. This was done to re-focus the goal away from simply displaying digital proficiency and more toward ‘solving a problem’ in their community. “One of the Fab Lab missions is to empower students to think and fabricate in unison and help them unlock their potential to recognize and solve complex problems” said Richard Sewell, NOVA’s Fab Lab Coordinator.
Prior to the final submissions, the NOVA Fab Lab provided 16 free Dominating Our Design Challenge prep sessions in February and March. The first, entitled Using Design Thinking, provided a process for moving an idea to a functional solution. The second, Learning the Tools,helped participants learn the strengths and weaknesses for rapid prototyping on four common fabrication technologies: laser cutting, 3D Printing, CNC Routing, and plastic thermoforming. Dominating Our Design Challenge sessions were utilized by 141 participants in 4 locations: Prince William Public Libraries, Arlington Tech, SERVE Family Shelter, the NOVA Fab Lab, and virtually.
After the design submission deadline of April 17, the Fab Lab received 62 total entries, comprised of 123 participants. Once submitted, participants were judged based upon their digital or hand-drawn designs and written descriptions. The top three then had their winning designs fabricated by our Fab Lab team using a CNC router, woodshop equipment and hand tools as well as a Stratasys F370 3D printer and received their fabricated products at the ceremony.
The 1st place award was won by a two-person team consisting of Eli Reeder and Logan Pennington from The Nokesville School for their product titled, iDesk, which is a desk with an iPad screen and charger built-in. The iDesk solves the problem of having to charge laptops and is purposed so that teachers can send assignments directly to the desk tablet. Eli and Logan won the top prize of $500 plus an Ender-3 S1 3D printer, certificate plaques, and their fabricated product.
NOVA’s own Carmen Chica earned 2nd place with her All In Chair design, a desk with a wide backplate chair composed of two adjustable arms to create right-handed and left-handed usage, so all students feel included. Carmen was awarded $300, a 3D printer, a certificate plaque, and her fabricated product.
The 3rd place award went to Harris Lechtman, from George C. Marshall High School for his Study Buddy Organizer, which offers a solution to limited desk space through an attachment that holds a phone, a drink, pencil slots and other sections for desk items. Harris won $100 plus the 3D printer, plaque, and his fabricated product.
Fab Lab Coordinator Lance Lacey reflected on the payoff of a design coming to realization: “I always enjoy seeing the students expressions as they interact with the physical prototype of their idea for the first time. Before it was an idea and a sketch, but then they see an actual functioning product!”
There were also three honorable mention designs: Eva Torrico from Thomas Jefferson Middle School submitted a Terretami Fork, which combines a spoon, fork, knife, straw, chopsticks, and a milk puncturer all into one reusable utensil.
Tyler Freeman, Connor Freeman, and Lucas Morton from MOT Charter High Schooldesigned a Recyclable Lunch Tray with biodegradable and recyclable material that can be vacuum-formed to allow for bulk-production.
Devin Gerdes, from NOVA, was recognized for Print Catcher, which is a customized basket that prevents sheets from touching the ground once they have been printed.
The Design Challenge is made less of a challenge for NOVA SySTEMic to organize thanks to the generous support of our sponsors: BAE Systems (special thanks to David Sargent and Hannah Wilson), Micron (Zuzana Steen and Robert Simmons), Amtek Company (Alex Baddock), Digital Realty, and Dewberry Engineering (Arlene Evans and Barry Dewberry–Arlene is a NOVA Alumna!)
Industry representatives also served as Design Challenge Judges: from BAE, Jim Sturim (a Project Engineer) and Elly Taylor (a Test Technician). From Digital Realty, Karen Petersburg (a Design Manager), and from Dewberry Engineering, Carmen Bere (a Project Engineer).
The Design Challenge also received stellar support from NOVA, including Dr. Chad Knights, VP of IET and College Computing; IET Dean Paula Ford, Dean of Math, Science, and Engineering; Dr. Abe Eftekari, NOVA SySTEMic Program Manager; Aleksander Marthinussen and Kelly Persons from the NOVA Foundation. NOVA Faculty Nina Lord and Michael Spiller also brought their classes over to the Fab Lab to participate.
Additional recognition and thanks to Kristen Burnham from Prince William Public Libraries, Michelle Van Lare from Arlington Tech, Brittany Greer from Rosie Riveters and Amrata Sahasrabudhe from SERVE Family Shelter.
Finally, special recognition goes to the NOVA Fab Lab team including Lance Lacey, Richard Sewell, Brendan Murphy, Kai Le and Valerie Bierhuizen, who developed, strategized and implemented Design Challenge procedures for months, as well as providing effective outreach to get all participants and sponsors involved.
NOVA SySTEMic Coordinator Brendan Murphy reflected on the focus of student creativity: “We built the challenge to be intentionally open-ended to allow for a wide variety of solutions. It’s truly exciting and inspiring to see the creative ideas that students design.”
First place winners Eli Reeder and Logan Pennington had some sage advice for aspiring future Design Challenge participants; “No idea is a bad idea,” said Eli. “Don’t stress out, because you have a lot of time to do it. You spend most of your time brainstorming. Keep it simple,” Logan added. “If you have a good idea already, don’t stress yourself trying to improve it, just tweak the small things.”
The inaugural Design Challenge Ceremony in July 2021 began the process of bringing back in-person events to the Fab Lab. Going forward, the challenge will be held twice-a-year, in both the fall and spring semesters and is open to middle school, high school and college students.
More information about the Fall Design Challenge will be available here and on the NOVA Fab Lab page by the end of the summer.