Two WOHS teams selected as finalists in prestigious engineering challenge

Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Cumming Senior Matt Hascsack and engineering and design solutions teacher Max Grossman.
Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Cumming
Senior Matt Hascsack and engineering and design solutions teacher Max Grossman.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Two West Orange High School teams have been selected as finalists in the STEAM Tank Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Army in conjunction with the N.J. School Boards Association. Both teams will present their work at the NJSBA Workshop in Atlantic City to be held Oct. 25 through 27.

Utilizing the concept of the popular television program “Shark Tank,” students are tasked with the challenge of inventing something new, modifying an existing product or identifying a situation or problem that needs resolution. According to the press release, “the design or solution will be judged in a similar format to ‘Shark Tank’ and contestants must follow a set of rules and guidelines if the challenge is accepted. If the entry is a concept, or an idea to solve a situation or a problem rather than a physical invention, the pitch to the judges must clearly outline a plan to accomplish the end result.”

Both teams are comprised of students in the engineering and design solutions course led by teacher Max Grossman.

“The students came up with the concept for their projects during the EDS capstone project,” Grossman said in a press release. “The students were told to try to identify a problem in their lives or the world and invent something to solve that problem. They worked on the project mostly in class but it has moved to an after-school project with the TSA as it got more complex and we moved past the original scope of the class project.”

The first team is comprised of students Arjun Abraham and Kevin Zeligson and the project is called the “Sustainacycle.” The Sustainacycle is a device that can be attached to a bicycle that will be able to charge devices like cell phones or iPods while riding the bicycle.

The second team is comprised of students Matthew Hascsak, Luis Soto and Malik St. Felix, and the project is called “Aquariam Care.” The project grew out of one of Hascsak’s passions: raising fish. He currently has 15 tanks at home including a reef tank, a planted tank and several breeding setups. He is breeding five different strains of guppies, Daisy’s rice fish, goldfish, Congo tetras, albino red velvet swordtails and yellow-footed snails.

“Unlike any other filter on the market, my filter has the ability to increase its capacity as well as its flow. This allows the hobbyist to curtail the aquarium to the specific needs of the fish,” Hascsak said. “For example, fish like barbs need higher flow while fish like angel fish need lower flow. My filter could adapt to either of those needs. In addition, many new hobbyists purchase fish that grow too large for their systems. In order to keep the fish they will need to upgrade the size of the tank at one point or another.

“However, the price of a new filter alone could inhibit this,” he continued. “My filter could be expanded with an inexpensive attachment, possibly under $20, well below the several hundred dollars needed for a new filter. Too many times when someone can no longer keep their fish due to the cost of getting an appropriate tank, they release them into the wild. This poses serious threats to the environment that can be mitigated by my filter.”

WOHS technology and engineering supervisor Ryan DelGuercio was pleased with the impact of the program for students.

“The students have done a tremendous job developing their ‘inventions’ they will be presenting at the STEAM Tank Challenge,” DelGuercio said. “They are great examples of the what students taking technology and engineering courses here at WOHS learn — everything from the DECIDER design process to product life cycle assessment to 3D printing and prototyping.”

Grossman was excited by his students’ efforts and felt that it has been a positive experience for them.

“Asking high school students to try to identify and solve a problem in the world is asking a lot for a school project. There are companies all over the world with teams of engineers trying to do the same exact thing so this was a very complex project to take on,” he said. “The projects came out very well and are very creative solutions to some very real problems. Cell phones are constantly needing to be charged and bike share programs are taking off all over the country, so the Sustainacycle is a great fit in modern society. The aquarium filter project is definitely more of a niche item, but nonetheless it solves a common problem that people face. People often start with a small fish tank and upsize over the years so this saves some of the cost from upsizing each time.

“The fact that we told them they would be entered into a contest definitely motivated the projects and has motivated almost all the students to pursue some sort of STEAM major in college,” Grossman concluded.