High school technology contest will highlight creativity, problem-solving skills

Purdue University will be home to the first regional competition of the Phoenix Contact Nanoline Contest.

The College of Technology at Purdue will host four schools Feb. 9 in a contest that will determine who will compete in the national contest at Phoenix Contact’s national headquarters in Harrisburg, Penn. The winner of the national contest will travel to Germany in April to showcase their project at the Hanover Fair, the world’s largest industrial trade show. Phoenix Contact began the contest in 2009 as part of their STEM initiatives.

Brad Harriger, professor of mechanical engineering technology, and Alka Harriger, professor of computer and information technology, are spearheading the regional contest. When the regional contest was launched in October 2012, 13 teams signed up to participate. Four of the teams made it past the final checkpoint for readiness.

“Success in the Phoenix Contact Nanoline Contest relies heavily on problem-solving skills,” Brad Harriger said. “It is giving them an introduction to controls, and we’re trying to get them excited about technology and using it to solve problems.”

Each team is provided with the same basic kit of Phoenix Contact Nanoline controllers and nanoNavigator software. They also receive a $200 gift card to purchase additional equipment for their projects.

“They are asked to innovate a product that somehow shows off the technology and creates something useful that has the potential of reaching a larger market,” Alka Harriger said. “Part of their presentation involves talking about the broader appeal of their product.”

Competing teams include two from Benton Central High School, Walker Career Center from Indianapolis, and Forest Park High School from Ferdinand. They have created a wide-range of projects, including a replica of Star Wars’s R2-D2; a nanolight table, which can operate as a game or a device to display messages; an affordable wind-energy generator; and a hot dog cooking machine.

The competition portion will take place in the morning. Public displays and demonstrations will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the basement of Knoy Hall followed by an awards ceremony at 1:30 p.m.

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