Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Student's invention solves problem


Lois E. Johnson

Barnum High School senior Carl Johnson with the device that he engineered to prevent iPad charging cords from disappearing.

A problem with iPad charging cords disappearing plagued the technology department at Barnum High School. Technology Director Evan Lembke assigned his student aide, Carl Johnson, to find a solution, and Johnson engineered a device that solved the problem.

"First, we looked to see if there were any solutions to buy something but found nothing to meet our needs," said Lembke in a recent interview. "I asked Carl to come up with something."

Johnson said he has two years of working with CAD (Computer Aided Design) programs and background on computers. He used that knowledge as he designed a device that would solve the problem.

"It took a couple of days to figure out what we wanted," said Johnson. "It just took an hour to design it."

Once Johnson had the design, he used a 3D printer to create the device. That took a couple of hours, he said.

The device Johnson created solved the problem.

The plug of the charger nestles securely in the plastic device and two cords come out of the back of it. The plug is plugged into an electrical outlet, as it was designed to do.

The key portion of the device is a small protrusion on the bottom with a hole in it. The device can be attached to the outlet with a screw, after the screw on the outlet cover is removed.

Johnson printed seven of the devices and they are used at the school where charger cords are left plugged into outlets for charging iPads.

The school's 3D printer is allowing students like Johnson to engineer objects that have useful applications, as well as printing pre-designed objects from the CAD program.

"I used the 3D printer quite a bit last year," said Johnson.

Lembke explained the 3D printer uses a strand of plastic that is melted at 500 degrees Fahrenheit as it feeds into the machine. The design on the computer attached to the printer sends signals to the printer to layer the melted plastic to create the three-dimensional object that was designed.

Lois E. Johnson

The device secures the cords with a screw on the bottom attached to the outlet.

The platform on the 3D printer is 10 inches by eight inches by eight inches, said Lembke. For larger objects, parts would be printed and then snapped together to create the larger object. For small items, two objects can be printed at one time. 3D printers used in industries can print with many types of material.

"They do some pretty cool stuff," said Johnson. "China started using these to build houses. Cement is used instead of plastic."

Johnson is a senior at Barnum High School and plans on continuing his education at Itasca Community College in a general engineering program. He said he doesn't have plans for his education beyond community college at this time but will make a decision later.

"It's amazing that I'm able to do something like this," he said. "Modern technology is a life-changer."


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