Concord High School’s engineering team has done it again.
For the second year in a row, Concord students have won the Source America Design Challenge, a national engineering competition for high school and college students to create innovative technology for people with disabilities.
The 11-member team beat out 160 competitors from 26 states to become national champions. The Source America Design Challenge pairs aspiring engineers with nonprofits that employ disabled workers.
Concord’s winning submission was the Weigh Master, a redesigned scale that helps intellectually disabled workers at Waggies by Maggie and Friends measure the correct weight of dog treats to be bagged.
Waggies, which makes, bakes and bags dog treats out of the Elks Club in Wilmington, employs people with intellectual disabilities. Leigh Corrigan and Mary Ann Nolan founded the company. “We each have a daughter. Both girls were 21, and so what we needed was a business where they would be able to have sustainable and meaningful work,” Nolan said.
There are 12 employees, two of which are volunteers, who work at Waggies. The Concord team spent time shadowing the employees before determining how they could help the workers bag the treats more efficiently. “A lot of the employees really struggled with understanding reading the numbers and comprehending the correct weight that it should be. So we came up with a device that will tell them whether it weighs too little, it’s the perfect weight or it’s too much,” said Rowan Davis, a member of the Concord HS engineering team.
Instead of a scale that displays numbers, the Weigh Master audibly informs the workers of the bag’s weight. It was imperative that the redesigned scale didn’t eliminate jobs at Waggies, a common modern day occurrence with innovative technology, but enhance the worker’s enjoyment. “It’s kind of changed our system and it is working. The scale has heightened our efficiency and the timeline for packaging. They enjoy doing it,” Nolan said.
This is the third year the Concord Source team has made it to the finals. Engineering teacher Jordan Estock has never been more proud. “The Source team has amazed me this year. It’s all extracurricular so any free time they have during the day they’re down here working on it.”
In addition to a paid trip for several of the team members to Washington, D.C. to show how the Weigh Master worked, the team was awarded $8,000 to split among themselves, the school received $6,000 and Waggies got $1,000.