By Mary O’KEEFE
Some kids play video games where they fly a helicopter through intricate virtual settings. The camera mounted on the helicopter gives them a bird’s eye view of their path. Of course those kids are contained within the television screen; for Clark Magnet High School senior Wesley William Shaler, reality is so much better.
“I designed a camera mount for the remote controlled helicopter,” Shaler said.
The design won him the Gold Medal CAD [computer drafting design] Award sponsored by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
“[CAD Award] is a county-wide ROP [regional occupational program],” said Karen Carlson, Clark counselor. “There were 300 kids competing with 30 districts represented.”
Shaler won a gold medal for his camera mount design.
The helicopter/camera can be used to photograph landscape without having a designer actually traveling the distance by car or foot.
“It allows a designer to get an overall view,” Shaler said of the use of his design. “But the beauty of this [design] is that it does not only have one single function.”
Another use for the helicopter is around high voltage electrical towers. When there is a problem on the tower, the solution now is to have an electrician climb the tall tower to assess the damage.
“You can’t fly a real helicopter too close to the top because of the danger but with [the helicopter/camera] you can,” Shaler added.
The remote control helicopter can reach the altitude with ease and hover, filming or taking photographs of damaged areas. This makes it safer for the electrician in addition to being fast, easy and inexpensive, he said.
“The entire thing only weighs about eight pounds,” Shaler said.
Shaler’s teacher Tom Ferguson, who used to work at Lockheed Martin Corporation, submitted the design. He worked with Will on a previous project, the Catfish, at the school.
The Catfish was an underwater robotics project at the school that also garnered its share of awards. Shaler was a student of beloved and widely respected Clark teacher Luis Herrera who passed away last year. Shaler credits Herrera with shaping his knowledge and interest in the aviation/aerospace field. Ferguson, Herrera and Shaler all worked together on the Catfish.
“I have known Will for a while and thought, ‘This kid is really sharp.’ His goal is to go to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University,” Ferguson said. The university is a highly respected aviation and aerospace institution.
For Shaler, Clark Magnet was the perfect fit for his scientific mind and aviator’s heart. The school offers many opportunities to explore a variety of science and art-based careers, and to utilize impressive equipment and technology.
“This is a 3-D printer,” Ferguson said as he pointed to a large white box in the classroom. Shaler and Ferguson said the printer helps designers see and test their creations before hands-on building. It cuts the time of building one prototype after another, allowing the students to become more efficient.
The school not only offers high-tech equipment but also teachers like Ferguson who bring practical experience into the classroom. In addition to teaching at Clark, Ferguson is also an adjunct professor at Glendale Community College and works as an IT specialist.
Ferguson added that the school gets its support and push from Principal Doug Dall.
“Whether it is cinematography or aviation, he’s there,” he added.
The advanced technology and experienced teachers
are a key component of discovery and education at the school, but it still comes down to that original blank piece of paper and a creative mind.
“The ideas come to me at the weirdest times,” Shaler said. “When I see a problem I just [start thinking] how can I solve it.”