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Flowery Branch student has designs on national tech prize
Junior Sarah Slavik enters competition in July with wheelchair organizer prototype
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Flowery Branch High School engineering, drawing and design teacher Ean Sonnier describes the Technology Student Association national competition that one of his students will be participating in the coming weeks. Sonnier has run the TSA chapter at Flowery Branch for two years. - photo by Erin O. Smith

A junior at Flowery Branch High School will be the first student from her school to compete at the national conference of the Technology Student Association.

Sarah Slavik, who qualified for the national competition as a sophomore, will go to the Nashville, Tenn., event July 28-July 2.

Sarah will compete in the manufacturing prototype category with her organizer for a wheelchair.

She explained that the problem was to create the organizer and make it readily accessible and easy to use for someone in a wheelchair.

“Getting to their supplies right away is very important,” she said, noting that medicines need to be easy to reach. The organizer also includes a place for an oxygen tank, if that should be needed, or it could be used for a cane or umbrella.

The organizer can hang from the side with velcro straps or from the rear with “carabiners,” plastic hooks with snaps. Sarah and Ean Sonnier, her instructor, were “printing” the hooks Thursday on the 3D printer in the classroom.

Part of the challenge in the manufacturing process is to find reusable materials. She said she created a box to hold the organizer.

“I made a box from a tutorial that I found online,” she said. She used a flat piece of recycled cardboard. Cardboard, suede “because it is thick and durable” and “old” thread also were used in making the organizer.

She also prepared a portfolio, nine pages that shows the organizer from concept to design to prototype.

“She developed the design herself, created all of the CAD plans herself, and made a working prototype complete with portfolio and box design to be sold in stores,” Sonnier said.

Sarah said she thought she could build the organizer in three hours. That was wrong.

“Sewing is kind of difficult. I nearly stabbed myself a couple of times,” she said.

Estimating development time is not a strong suit of Sarah’s. She also will compete in “promotional graphic” at the national event.

She has made a puzzle using the TSA emblem and a variety of pieces, each with a different type of engineering.

“It took a little bit more than I anticipated,” Sarah said. She first drew the design, scanned that into the computer and used Inkscape software to color and highlight it.

Sarah said she made the graphic to help promote TSA. It will be used at Flowery Branch this year to encourage more students to join the group.

Sonnier said the school has had a TSA chapter for two years, growing from 22 to 44 students. The 2016-17 year will be the third year for the group.

Sarah said she had been involved with technology since middle school and joined TSA at the high school.

“We can all be nerdy together,” she said.

The junior also runs cross country and track and is in the Spanish Honors club and Beta Club.

The national conference will include about 65 competitions for middle and high school students.

Sarah will turn in her entries when she arrives and the wait until the judges review all of them and award prizes. She said she expects to see other exhibits while she waits and explore the Gaylord Hotel.

She said she is thinking about being a civil engineer. That is attractive, she said, because she can be “hands-on” with projects.

“I love math,” Sarah said. “I like going out with designs and things.”

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