MENOMONIE — In a lab at UW-Stout, students in a mechatronics class presented their final projects as the fall semester wrapped up in late December.
The event that showcased work by students majoring in technology education could have doubled as an inventors’ fair.
William Hibbard of Appleton explained his creation of what appeared to be a miniature cumulus cloud, an irregular-shaped mass of pillow filling. With a 15-foot strip of LED lights affixed to a wire frame inside, the cloud was programmed to glow in a variety of colors — something children might love in a bedroom.
Tyson Rohrscheib of Eleva and Matt LeBrun of Wausau explained their automatic greenhouse.
In a plastic storage bin with a layer of dirt, they grew grass in two days. A watering system, light and fan were programmed to operate together around the clock and did all the work once the seed was planted.
A sensor let the watering device know when the soil was dry. Vegetables could be grown indoors in the winter, for example, with such a device.
Anna Stamschror of Milwaukee designed a bird feeder that she affectionately referred to as a squirrel launcher. When a squirrel gets too close to the food, a sensor is triggered, ejecting the squirrel.
A shoebox-size “scrawler” made by Matthew Harris of Antigo walks on 12 legs using a twin cam system. Blending mechanical and electrical design, it can be controlled via Bluetooth technology.
Instructor Kevin Dietsche’s class challenged students to combine various aspects of engineering, including mechanical, electrical, computer, telecommunications and systems, and then to make something consumers might find useful.
“The application is across the board. I was impressed with their projects,” Dietsche said of students’ work. “As a teacher, it’s fun to see them come through.”
Ice fishing made easy
Two of the technology education majors, Drew Merryfield of Little Chute and Bryan Lammers of Oostburg invented something that many Wisconsin and Minnesota residents might find valuable in the winter. They devised an automatic ice fishing rod and reel.
With a small motor connected to the rod and a sensor on the tip, they programmed the pole to jig — or quickly lift the bait — every few seconds to help attract fish.
That’s not all. When a fish is hooked and pulls the rod tip down, the rod senses the extra pressure and automatically reels in the fish.
The device is rigged to catch fish up to five pounds, but they could design it for heavier fish, they said.
The device can be controlled through a smart phone. Lammers said the biggest challenge was wiring the pole flex sensor and getting it to work properly.
Merryfield said he loved the class. “We had the freedom to build what we wanted, and everyone in class helped each other,” he said.