Diversity & Inclusion
Education / Youth

These Concord High students made the finals of a national engineering competition

The students invented a scale called The Weigh Master, which helps employees weight treats for the local Waggies by Maggie and Friends.

The Concord High School SourceAmerica team. (Courtesy photo)

Eleven students, nine seniors and two sophomores from Wilmington’s Concord High School, are heading to Washington, D.C., next month as finalists in the 2017 SourceAmerica Design Challenge.
We caught up with student team leader Justin DiGiovanni ahead of the finals to find out more about their project. They worked with Waggies by Maggie and Friends, a Wilmington-based nonprofit that sells dog treats baked by people with intellectual disabilities, to create what they’ve called The Weigh Master.
Some store employees had trouble weighing bags of dog treats and needed help from adult volunteers to figure out when they added too many or not enough. DiGiovanni’s team figured that they could build a system to help employees bag treats effectively and efficiently.
So, they did. Through coding skills, tech on hand, a monitor and a Raspberry Pi, The Weigh Master was born. DiGiovanni told us that “the code that we wrote shows a picture on the monitor depending on the weight of the scale.”

  • If nothing’s on the scale, the display turns blue and reads “Start Weighing.”
  • If the bag is underweight, the display is yellow, has a plus sign and reads “Add More.”
  • If the bag is overweight, the display is red, has a minus sign and reads “Too Much.”
  • If the bag’s weight is correct, the display is green, has a smiley face and reads “That’s Good.”

The Concord High School team tested The Weight Master with their subject matter expert, Becky Longo, who works at Waggies. “For one trial,” DiGiovanni explained, “she used the old method of weighing, and for the other trial, she used our device.”
How did The Weigh Master compare to the old method? “With the old method,” according to DiGiovanni, “she was only able to complete one bag and it took her seven minutes. Additionally, this bag was overweight when she decided it was done. With our device, she was able to complete all 10 bags flawlessly in just three minutes.”

We asked DiGiovanni what he and his team learned from working with Waggies by Maggie and its employees, and he told us that they discovered “how rewarding it is to have an impact on people’s lives for the better. Each of us on the team has been a part of several engineering projects, but this was the first time that we have been able to see the effect that a project has had on someone’s life.”
DiGiovanni told us that they started the project with the pure goal of winning, “but it quickly turned into us striving to improve someone’s work experience.”
If Concord wins the SourceAmerica contest this year, they’ll be national champions two years running. The school’s made it to the finals three times in the last four years, too. It sounds like their engineering instruction is onto something.

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