AAPS: Huron PLTW sweeps high school division of State Invention Convention

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

The Huron High School Project Lead The Way (PLTW) team received great news when the winners of the Michigan Invention Convention were announced last week.

Huron PLTW swept the High School division with projects awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

In addition, senior Anirudh Cowlagi placed first to become the high school champion and was named the grand champion of the entire competition. His project “AstroTrack” discovers, tracks, and creates 3D renderings of asteroids.
Anirudh says PLTW was a highlight of his day since he enrolled in Introductory Engineering Design as a freshman. He appreciates learning to use tools not taught in a traditional classroom, especially 3D CAD modeling.

“I am certain that many of the skills will extend beyond high school, or college, and into the professional world,” he says. “Additionally, Huron PLTW’s encouragement to actively solve problems, engage in the design process, and work on projects with relatable, healthier goals—for example, projects that emphasize the use of virtual funds, or other resources, as compared to a traditional grade—benefited me greatly and allowed me to explore areas that I wouldn’t have traditionally wanted to consider, out of fear for a bad grade.”

The competition began in early March when the Huron, Pioneer, and Skyline PLTW capstone Engineering Design and Development students competed against more than 200 projects in the Regional Invention Convention at Eastern Michigan University through The Henry Ford.

Twenty-two projects from AAPS advanced to the state level competition which took place virtually in April.

“We are really proud of these kids, especially since they are our first group of freshmen that started with us when we got hired at Huron,” says Katie Marchionna, Huron PLTW teacher. “We’ve seen them grow from timid freshmen to the remarkable young men and women they are today. It’s an honor to be a part of their story. These are innovators and world-changers.”
Jadyn and Siena Smith placed second with their “Perceive the Puzzle” design, which helps autistic individuals express themselves through a wearable device.

Elizabeth Li placed third and received the patent award with her “EcoRinse” shower efficiency system.
First and second place winners will continue onto the national competition at the Henry Ford Museum Invention Convention, with a date still to be determined.

Huron PLTW engineering teacher Rob Cupit says he believes Huron came out on top because of the students’ time commitment, preparation, and attention to detail when presenting their innovations.

“Our Huron Rat-gineers go the extra mile to make sure they are ready for any questions or scenario the judges would throw at them,” he says.

During Huron’s PLTW December holiday fundraiser, students designed and sold the laser-engraved products they are holding. Left to right: Ryan Schulte, Siena Smith, Jadyn Smith, Zolan Baptista and Joey Ryan.

Anirudh Cowlagi

AAPS’ PLTW Department Head Tom Pachera applauded the “amazing” work of teachers Rob Cupit and Katie Marchionna and says he looks forward to Huron students representing  AAPS PLTW at the national Invention Convention.

Anirudh says the award and recognition from the Invention Convention validates his efforts, and that he’s been reading books about space—ranging from interstellar explosions to the moons of Jupiter—since he was a child.

“The ability to continue my project as a part of PLTW, and the freedom to choose a project that truly appealed to my personal interests allowed me to pursue it to the fullest extent,” he says. “I think this was probably the reward of this whole process.”

In the fall, Anirudh will attend the University of Pennsylvania as a part of the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER) and plans to pursue a dual degree in physics and computer science.