Northern Vance's Sirocco wins!

Feb. 12, 2013 @ 06:56 PM

Northern Vance High School has won the N.C. State University Emerging Issues Prize for Innovation.

The announcement was made Tuesday afternoon, at the 28th annual Emerging Issues Forum with Gov. Pat McCrory in attendance.

More than 12,000 people cast a vote for one of five different high school finalists from throughout the state.

For the past four months, five students in Jeff Arthurs’ honors engineering class have been campaigning in Vance County, encouraging citizens to vote for their innovative computer cleaning mechanism known as Sirocco.

“This year’s challenge was for a student team to work together to submit an innovative design or product that would bring social benefit to their community,” said Randy Woodson, chancellor at N.C. State University. “I must say that I’m truly impressed with all the entries and very proud of the accomplishment and commitment made to their peers.”

Sirocco started as a 3D image developed on a computer program called Solid-works.

It was designed to dislodge dust from a computer’s critical functioning parts, with the goal of lowering malfunction rates, while also saving money typically spent on computer repair.

In January the students marched ahead of other competitors, developing a prototype with the help of Bob Esquivel, owner and operator at Salare Inc. of Henderson, where a variety of laboratory equipment and custom products are manufactured.

As winners of the competition, Arthurs’ team will now receive $5,000 for further production of their prototype.

“It’s overwhelming,” Arthurs said. “I’m so proud, proud of these guys most of all.

“They just told us we had over 6,000 of the 12,000 votes.”

Students involved in the project include Justin Care, Dylan Grissom, Amber Stevenson, Ray Cheever and Nick Sharpe.

“Four months of hard work finally paid off,” said Grissom, who will attend N.C. State this fall with plans to major in sports management. “We’re going to try to come up with a business and sell it.”

Sharpe, also a senior, plans to major in engineering at UNC Charlotte in the fall.

“That’s the next step, prototyping and start a business,” Sharpe said.

The focus of the two-day Emerging Issues Forum was high-wage, quality jobs available in manufacturing today, and how communities throughout North Carolina can seize the opportunities it presents.

“Messages to the manufacturing summit at the Emerging Issues Forum will be if we can’t find the qualified employees, we’re not going to retain, much less recruit, new industry to North Carolina,” said Gov. Pat McCrory.  “I met with some major business leaders at your club in Henderson, and one of the biggest issues we’re having is that even when there are job openings at this point in time, they’re having a tough time finding qualified people to fill those openings.

“If we do not find qualified employees the industry will leave, and that’s why I’m putting a special emphasis on vocational training.”

McCrory, who celebrated with students from Northern Vance as they filed on stage after being announced winners, emphasized Vance County as an area where employers abound for the manufacturing industry.

“I want to sell that skill set in Vance County to potential industries,” McCrory said.

While McCrory believes Vance County could be considered an ideal home for future manufacturers, on Tuesday it proved to be an area that currently cares about community.

Arthurs was overwhelmed with emotion as he conveyed his gratitude for Vance County’s support.

“I’m just so proud of Vance County,” Arthurs said. “I think they really stepped up, so that’s just really cool to be a part of.”

Contact the writer at amauser@hendersondispatch.com.