Welcome to the N1IR Electronics Website. Totally off the cuff, one take, unrehearsed video projects for anyone interested in amateur radio, electronic design, makers, hardware hackers and science.

Get off your duff and build something!
Training the hand and mind since 1982.

Friday, January 18, 2013

South Shore Vocational Technical School receives 120K in total grant funds


Hanover — Imagine being able to take a scanning gun, run it over something and then watch as a printer made a duplicate of the original item out of plastic.

Thanks to a recent grant awarded to South Shore Vocational Technical School (SSVT), the technology to do this and more will soon be available in the school’s electronics workshop. 

“To me, this stuff is like the Jetsons,” said Vincent Barba, electronics and engineering teacher at SSVT. 

Barba said the grant would enhance the school’s engineering curriculum by giving the school $119,925 to spend on new equipment: money that has already been earmarked. 

“The school will be buying a state-of-the-art PC Board Prototype Milling Machine that will allow the construction of PC boards and custom flexible circuits using surface mount technologies,” he said. Essentially, the machine will give the students the opportunity to build circuit boards on bendable surfaces, expanding the limits for technological construction in the classroom. 

The limits are already stretched pretty thin. Students work on machines most people think of as being located in a factory far far away. Rachel Travers holds up her IPOD, which she plugs into a charger she constructed. Next to her is Kim Cordeiro, who has what essentially looks like a stick of dynamite but, in actuality, is a PC line tester. This machine has a small light which glows if the tester touches anything with a charge running through it. 

“The technology we will get is kind of cutting edge,” Barba said. “They have similar technology in labs at MIT.” 

The other major new piece of equipment the school will purchase with the grant money is a three-dimensional laser scanner. The machine will be able to scan something and transfer the data to the 3D printer the school already has. Barba explained this kind of technology is used commonly to create a properly fitting prosthetic cup to fit over the end of the limb after someone has lost an arm or leg. 

The new equipment will fit into the theme Barba has tried to create for his students. He said he encourages his students to work hard, but to remember that it is really only work if the students don’t enjoy what they are doing. 

The idea for the grant was first developed last year. The idea started with the school’s Superintendent-Director Tom Hickey and Deborah Collins, the school’s vocational director. 

“Mr. Barba picked it up and ran with it,” Collins said. “The grant will head students into a well-versed curriculum.” 

The grant from the state was for $100,000. A private company, Dynisco, decided to add to it with an additional $20,000 to support the school and, after the two major purchases, the leftover cash will supply the school with much more new equipment.
“The grant money will also pay for considerable robotics kits and parts, 3D software, 3D printer consumables, Notebook Computers and high-end desktop computers used to render 3D images and models,” Barba said. “Lastly, money will be used to buy hydraulic and pneumatic test stations that will support the teaching of overall engineering curriculums.” 

Collins said the school will most likely purchase the equipment and later be reimbursed by the grant and it is likely the new items will appear at SSVT in six months or so. Barba said the upgrades would help prevent SSVT from falling behind. 

“The new [equipment] allows the students to do a lot more,” he said. “We will be totally up-to-date technologically.” 

Barba said he thinks it is important to eliminate the stigma that a “Vo-Tech” education equates to “slow-tech.” He said 90 percent of electronics and engineering students continue onto higher education and, in five years of testing, no students from the school have failed the MCAS exams. 

“One recent graduate returned last year to speak at graduation. He graduated from SSVT, then graduated from Worcester Polytech Institute and, after meeting a Navy admiral, was accepted into the Navy’s nuclear power officers program in 2012,” he said. “If that is not the opposite of “Slow Tech,” then I do not know what is.”

 Barba reaches into the 3D printer already at the school. The machine can make a duplicate of an item over the course of a few hours. With the new grant money, the school will also have a scanner, which will take much of the preparation time out of process.

 Juniors Rachel Travers and Kim Cordeiro show the machines they constructed in the electronics workshop at South Shore Vocational Technical School. Travers has a battery charger that works on an IPOD and Cordeiro has an AC line tester, which lights up when touching something currently being powered by electricity.

 Vincent Barba hangs the large picture of an astronaut on the wall to show students how far they can go in the field they are learning. He has the large “fun” sign to remind the students they should enjoy the classroom.