Anybody who’s ever tried to shoot video by hand knows it’s nearly impossible to keep images from appearing wobbly. That’s why a marketing instructor at Halifax County High School in South Boston, VA, paid a visit to Mitch Martin’s Creator Club not long ago.
Mr. Popek (the marketing teacher) wanted to improve the professionalism of his class videos with a tool that could stabilize the camera. He envisioned a device so sophisticated, it would work for student videographers even as they followed subjects down hallways and up and down staircases. Popek asked, could the students in Mr. Martin’s club, which focuses on 3D, computer science, and electronics, design and fabricate such a product?
One student said he thought he could. Meet Chris Alvarez, a high school senior who has been taking drafting and engineering design classes since his sophomore year at HCHS. Using PTC Creo, the help of Mr. Martin, and the school’s 3D printers, Alvarez went to work on the CometCam.
Chris Alvarez with CometCam
Based roughly on the professional (and pricier) Steadycam, the CometCam works like this. “It has a platform with two levels, one for vertical and one for horizontal,” says Alvarez. “The platform has a gimbal handle attached. The platform then has a piece of conduit running under it connecting the counterweight to the platform. The counterweight keeps the video looking smooth and steady.”
Don’t let the simplicity of the end product deceive you, though. It took a few tries to come up with the CometCam you see here. “We had a few design flaws,” Alvarez says. He went through several iterations while testing, exploring the tolerances in the printing material, and redesigning parts for strength and function.
In other words, his experience was pretty much like that of professional design engineers everywhere. And just like the best of them, when the going got tough, Alvarez dug in harder. “I don’t like to just quit a challenge and give up.”
Engineering programs like Mr. Martin’s provide platforms and mentoring for students like Alvarez to flourish. With PTC Creo and 3D printing, he worked with real-world engineering tools; plus, he learned to think about costs and time to market too.
“It is often cheaper to invest in a 3D printer than to buy every part that you need replaced over time.” That’s especially true if you have the skills to those design parts like Alvarez.
Designing and printing your own can shorten project development times, too. “You can spend 15 minutes designing something on a computer and then send it to the printer and have a small, 6×6 inch part in less time than it takes to order a replacement part online,” he says.
As the end of the school year approaches, Chris Alvarez is preparing to start college at nearby Liberty University. The choice between architecture and engineering is still up in the air. But it’s clear that no matter his major, with his inquisitive nature, perseverance, and what he’s learned from Mr. Martin, Mr. Popek, and PTC Creo, he’ll do well in whatever he pursues.
To find out more about PTC offerings for students like Chris Alvarez, visit the PTC Academic Program page or watch the video: