These news articles hit my desk last week – both highlighting the ingenuity of high school students.

The first story is about a class that designed a school lockdown device which prevents the door from latching – a problem if the door is a fire door.  I applaud their creativity, their passion, and the motivation behind their project, but it’s a bit concerning how easy it is for anyone to become an inventor and apply for patents without a full understanding of the codes that apply to their product.  This is happening in garages all over America, and the products can hit the market quickly and effectively, which leads to schools purchasing them and code officials getting stuck in the middle.

The second story is about a high school student who is using a 3D printer to create replacement parts for a fraction of the cost of purchasing parts from the manufacturer.  One of the products he created parts for is an automatic-closing device for a fire door.  The parts have been discontinued, so a new unit would have to be purchased.  As tempting as it is to print up the parts and save money, these products are UL listed and there could be huge liability for the school if the doors fail to close properly in a fire.  An interesting conundrum.

Student uses 3D printer to save district money – Herald-Standard

high-school-student-saves-thousands2As for the fire doors, the broken part is discontinued; therefore, the district would need to spend $1,000 to replace the entire door-closing system, Masterbray said.

“If the fire alarm goes off, the doors are made to close automatically,” he said. “This is the part that slides in the door to close the door.”

For years, he said one door in particular didn’t work and was held open with a wedge. Teachers had to manually close the door.

So far, three fire doors have been repaired saving the district $3,000. In total, there are 10 fire doors that could benefit from the 3D-printed part in the future.

“It’s $1 worth of plastic saving $250, and $6 worth of plastic saving $1,000,” said teacher Chuck Smitley. “It’s crazy. It blows my mind.”

How do we help to ensure that these problem-solvers have the necessary information when considering a do-it-yourself approach?


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