Sirocco delivers prototype for Northern Vance students’ project

Jan. 17, 2013 @ 05:38 PM

Jeff Arthurs and five students from his honors engineering class at Northern Vance High School are on a mission to win N.C. State University’s Emerging Issues Prize for Innovation.

Support from the community has already been seen with a Henderson company building the group’s prototype for free. They are rallying for further backing as an online public vote to determine the winner begins Feb. 4 and runs through Feb. 11.

The engineering students created a virtual design of Sirocco, an innovative design used to dislodge dust interfering with a computer’s critical functioning parts, on a computer program called Solid-works, used by many professional engineers.

“My part was Solid-works,” said Justin Care, a sophomore in Arthurs’ Engineering II class. “Sold-works is a 3D model program on the computer we use in engineering class, and with that you get to create models.

“We wanted a nice visual piece of what we were going to make.”

The winners of the Emerging Issues Prize will receive $5,000 to go toward the construction of a prototype. Arthurs’ group is ahead of the curve with a prototype already in place.

“This is a working prototype,” said Ray Cheever, a second-year engineering student. “We’re actually way ahead of the other teams in that regard.

“If we won we would be able to invest in further prototyping on top of what we’ve already done.”

The quest to build something tangible which first seemed daunting ended just five minutes down the road from Northern Vance.

Salare Inc. of Henderson manufactures a wide variety of all polypropylene laboratory equipment and makes custom products for other industries. It has been located in Henderson for 19 years, and employs 20 people.

Bob Esquivel, owner and operator at Salare Inc., has three daughters that graduated from Northern Vance. Coincidently each had Arthurs as a teacher.

“I was more than happy to help them,” Esquivel said. “It was right down my ally, so I decided this is a simple thing, I’ll do it real quick for them. This is what I do for a living.”

Finding a manufacturer to build a vacuum-like, custom designed product was a stroke of good fortune for the engineering students, but finding it in their hometown, with an offer to build for free was like striking gold.

“We could have searched the entire country and had a hard time finding somebody who would and could build our prototype,” Arthurs said. “How many people build things out of plastic who are air flow experts?”

At Salare Inc., Esquivel builds patent items for customers across the globe.

“I spent a good six or eight hours on it,” Esquivel said. “It’s a simple thing. It’s a concept they didn’t have any idea where to start. I said I tell you what, I’ll design something quickly, and it happened to work the first time I turned it on.”

Esquivel’s willingness to help the team demonstrates the type of community support needed for the engineering students, among an elite group of finalists.

Large, urban schools including the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham made the list of five high schools chosen for a chance at the prize.

“At first we thought that coming from a small town would hurt us,” said Dylan Grissom, a senior at Northern Vance who plans to attend N.C. State in the fall. “The more we thought about it, if we can make this a community project, then we can win as a community.”

In an effort to publicize their product, students presented the prototype to the Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce Thursday afternoon.

“We have to make this a community thing,” said Nick Sharpe, captain of the Sirocco engineering group. “We really have to get out there and get people to vote for us.”

Contact the writer at amauser@hendersondispatch.com.