Robotics club offers to fix, engineer, make items for the public with high-tech tools
The Port Washington High School PiraTech robotics club has opened up shop for the summer and is standing by to fix, engineer and manufacture everything from lawn mower parts to patio furniture.
PiraTech Manufacturing is a summer school class that sounds like a business, and aside from the fact it can’t charge for its services, it will operate like a lot like one.
“If people need anything fixed or built, they can have students design it, then manufacture it,” said Taylor Last, a teacher in the Port High technology education department who is overseeing the summer program. “People may have a broken lawn mower bracket that needs welding, but how many people have welding equipment? We do.
“I know a lot of people who tinker in their garage but get stuck when they need a certain part like a flange and have no way to make it. We have a full machine shop.
“Or maybe someone wants a piece of outdoor patio furniture, like an end table. We can design and build it in our wood shop.”
The summer school class grew out of the desire to give members of the robotics club more design, engineering and manufacturing experience. By offering their services to the public, students can apply their skills to “real-world” projects while providing a service to the community, Last said.
“We’re looking for projects,” he said. At students’ disposal is all the equipment needed for most jobs — computer-aided design equipment and a 3-D printer, welders, a laser engraver and CNC (computer numerical control) machine.
“We’re trying to find more opportunities for robotics club members to design and produce actual products,” Last said.
Last will be the first contact for “customers,” but after that he wants students to take over and see the projects through from beginning to end.
PiraTech Manufacturing can’t charge for its services because it is a summer school class, Last said, “but we are more than willing to accept donations, and we may try to give people an idea of what the work would cost if we were charging for it.”
The donations will benefit the PiraTech robotics club, which plans to use proceeds to build a work pit complete with tool drawers and tables that they will use to service their robot during competitions.
The robotics club was formed last year at the urging of students who were intrigued by the idea of building robots that compete with machines from other schools in an arena setting at the FIRST Robotics Competition.
Administrators say the club, which complements the Port High science, technology, engineering and manufacturing initiative, has been a success, attracting nearly 30 students and nearly as many mentors — area residents who use their expertise in engineering and manufacturing to guide club members.
Last hopes the PiraTech Manufacturing class keeps robotics club members sharp over the summer. Fifteen students have registered for the summer class, which began Monday and will run for six weeks.
“We might continue the program beyond the six weeks if it’s successful,” he said.
To contact PiraTech Manufacturing about a project, call Last at 268-5688.
While the high school summer school program began this week, middle and elementary school students will report for the first day of the six-week session on Monday, June 23.
Thomas Jefferson Middle School Principal Arlan Galarowicz said he expects about 1,200 students to attend summer classes, which range from enrichment courses like fishing, sports and art to classes that reinforce subjects such as math and reading.
A new course that has proven to be extremely popular, Galarowicz said, is Kitchen Chemistry.
“If you think about it, there’s a lot of chemistry that goes into cooking,” he said. “I’m trying to show kids who are preparing to go to the high school that chemistry is nothing to be afraid of. It’s no big deal.”