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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Students get invention ready for manufacture

By Shelley Grieshop

St. Henry schools seventh-grade students Rachel Post, left, and Kristen Bruggema. . .

ST. HENRY - A middle school project may someday fill closets across the country and bring fame and fortune to a pair of local students.
The foldable clothes hanger - designed to automatically open at the push of a button - was invented this year by St. Henry seventh-grade students Kristen Bruggeman and Rachel Post for a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Fair in February.
"Each year the engineer judges give suggestions on how to improve the STEM Fair. The one suggestion they make every year is to manufacture an invention," middle school computer teacher Monica Wehrley said. "So this year, we started that process."
The goal is to make the Fold-Yo-Hanger marketable, manufacture it and sell it, she said. The hanger is designed to easily get inside clothing.
After the hanger was chosen by school staff as the best project to market, high school students in the engineering design and development class helped modify it and create a technical drawing and prototype. Next they tapped local professionals for assistance.
"We went to R&R Fabrication (St. Henry) with our invention when we realized it was going to be difficult to create it with our resources at school," Wehrley said.
Company officials graciously helped select appropriate materials; the former wooden hanger is now made of a plastic composite. The hooked wire piece in the center is still a work in progress, she added.
The effort will continue next fall with marketing, accounting and manufacturing teams working on the project with assistance from teacher Lisa Mikesell. Accounting students will determine a price, track orders, collect payments and perform other duties. The hangers will be assembled by a student-based manufacturing team.
Wehrley explained the project to school board members Monday night. Bruggeman and Post subsequently were honored by the board with a special St. Henry school pin.
The young inventors say they now have a better understanding of how everyday problems can be solved.
"I got tired of hanging up clothes. It took too long," Post said. "We learned that there are things out there that we can improve as kids."
Bruggeman recalled how difficult it was initially to line up the sides and keep the hanger from collapsing when it was opened. But the duo's hard work paid off, she said.
"I learned that if you have an open mind about things, some of your ideas can go out into the world and become projects actually manufactured," she said. "It takes creative minds to create something, but it takes more than that to get it on the market."
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