This semester, our Mechanical Engineering students, led by STEM Director Hal Scripka, will apply their design and engineering knowledge to a new project called the "Fab Lab" Newtonian Telescope. The telescope will be at least 8 ft. tall and durable enough for use by elementary students.

The 12 high school students creating the telescope will be graded on critical thinking, designs, participation and teamwork. The project provides a venue to improve technical designing skills and gain build experience, as well as the opportunity to create a tangible product that will provide value to the school for years to come.

The students involved in this project include:

Chris Archer
Christian Carpenter
Jon Consoli
Garret Depew
Robby Griffina
Elijah Klein
Logan Lane
Beau Nunnally
Candler O'Neal
Brandon Pugh
Edward Storey
Jon Yancey


The telescope is now functional, as the mirrors and focuser have been properly mounted. Finishing touches to the exterior still remain, in addition to some tweaks on balance. The base of the bearings was intentionally lowered to make the eyepiece easier to access, but this change in the position of the fulcrum made the scope unbalanced. The secondary cage now becomes too heavy at wider angles, even though the weight has not changed.

The class was hard at work this week, problem-solving and adding springs to counteract the new change in downward force. Even with 70 pounds of spring force, the top still slips down after about 165 degrees. By the end of the week, the base of the poles will be weighted, fixing the remaining imbalance. We are on the final countdown for "launch". Stay tuned for more exciting updates!

Thank you to SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, for awarding us a $2500 grant for our telescope project.

Much progress has been made on the telescope this month, though the changes may be harder to see.

We are about 75% complete on the project and students are working solely in our new state-of-the-art STEM lab.  The students now have access to new equipment to expedite the completion of the project.  The first coat of polyurethane has been applied to the base of the telescope, sealing the wood and making it watertight and more resistant to bumps and scratches.

Jon Consoli has finished the exact calculations for the attachment holes, and the team has completed final mounting of the focuser, spray-painting the inside of the light-blocking film, and siding for the top portion of the mount. Beau, Logan, Edward and Elijah have also begun setting the eyepiece. The rest of the class, headed by Garret, mounted the decorative Star Wars cutout to a support board, which will soon be placed as a bearing.

Stay tuned for more exciting updates on our latest engineering project.

Go FCS Paladins!

Monday - Presenting Designs

Students presented their designs for the upper cage. A lot of great critical thinking went into these designs. Students made excellent materials choices, balancing weight and strength, as well as maximizing value for the project on some internal pieces.

PvC was often chosen for its waterproof qualities, structural support, and ability to directly support the focuser. Groups then took the best components of each design to make one final design and materials/cost workup.

The group with the best design for the upper cage consisted of students Jon Consoli, Brandon Pugh, and Jon Yancey.

Friday - Design Requirements

Students spent much of the class time on the design requirements for the bearing at the base of the telescope.

STEM Director, Mr Scripka, showed many examples of different designs to open the floor up for discussion. Aesthetics, material, design, function, feasibility, ease of use, and cost were all considered very heavily during the process.

Part of the engineering design process is combining what needs to be done, what can be done within time and cost constraints, and the team's creativity and execution.

This 4th period class has been doing an excellent job at balancing those three parts, and it is such a joy to watch them work!

Friday 1/20/17 - Material Debate

Student teams have been heavy into design work on the upper body of the telescope this week.

On Wednesday, there was intense debate between teams over which materials would be the best fit for the project. Metal, PVC and wood were all valid proposals for the upper cage.

Mr. Scripka fielded numerous questions on the feasibility of certain options as the designs became more concrete.Most groups have started to design the parts in Fusion 360, a 3-D modeling tool.

Teams are finishing up designs this week, as well as making spreadsheets of necessary parts and other material requirements.


On Monday, all teams will present their designs. The class will then vote on the best design, or the best aspects of several designs to create one final design for the secondary cage.

Friday 1/13/17 - Gantt Scheduling

This week, students discussed the design requirements for the Newtonian Telescope build. They created a product requirements document after a classroom brainstorming session.

On Thursday, the students collaborated on a Gantt Scheduling chart. This created a timeline and specific task breakdowns for each team.

The design phase will be completed by late February.

The students broke into five teams and worked on designs for the frame and construction of the upper assembly. Much of the discussion centered around choosing the best materials for the task.

Next week, teams will present their designs and decide on one design by January 19th. Students will then digitally draw the design using Fusion 360 CAD software. The next design segment will be the mirror box, one of the more intensive portions of the project.


Applications are now being accepted for the STEM Diploma Track. Enrollment is open for rising 9th and 10th grade students. Students accepted into the track will engage in a demanding program of study focusing on STEM related competencies and hands-on experience.

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