2017-06-14 / School News

Paw Paw High tech students create signs, fly drones & win state awards

by Kate Evans


Brent Mills (left), graduating Paw Paw High School senior, flies a Discovery drone while high school technical education teacher and STEM Club advisor Chris Poniris (right) observes while holding one of the more sophisticated Phantom 3 drones. Poniris acquired four drones for his classes through Ecolab grant funding and additional Career Technical Education monies. Brent Mills (left), graduating Paw Paw High School senior, flies a Discovery drone while high school technical education teacher and STEM Club advisor Chris Poniris (right) observes while holding one of the more sophisticated Phantom 3 drones. Poniris acquired four drones for his classes through Ecolab grant funding and additional Career Technical Education monies. Paw Paw High School students in technical education teacher Chris Poniris’ simulated workplace classes and STEM Club have been busy this year constructing and engraving classroom teacher signs and learning how to fly drones that Poniris got through grant funding. They also won state awards at the spring West Virginia Technology Student Association (TSA) competitions.

Poniris had a total of 19 students in his simulated workplace classes this year- 13 in communications and six in construction. Captain’s Quarters is the name of their communications company and Treasure on the Potomac is their construction company.


Paw Paw High School simulated workplace construction class students made and engraved classroom teacher signs and school signs with technical education teacher Chris Poniris (center-in back) this year. Pictured with Poniris are junior Tristan Kesner, left, and graduating senior James Jackson, right. Paw Paw High School simulated workplace construction class students made and engraved classroom teacher signs and school signs with technical education teacher Chris Poniris (center-in back) this year. Pictured with Poniris are junior Tristan Kesner, left, and graduating senior James Jackson, right. Poniris has teams of students doing research and development and production for both classes. He is moving the classes toward being actual companies and hopes to also create some internships for his students.

Laser cut designs

The laser cutting equipment for sign-making is programmed with assigned design values from Corel Drawing and Solid Works software, he said. The laser burns the design into the material from imported photos that are transferred to the laser printer.

The Universal Laser Systems equipment can etch into bronze, marble, wood and other materials in perfect and exact in-scale design after selecting the material’s thickness, Poniris said. Students first practiced on acrylic, then rough-cut the lumber and created the sign shape. Students sand and finish their signs after the laser engraving. Poniris rigged up their own engraving dust extraction system for $150 when a company wanted $3,600 for the equipment.

Graphics like apples or rulers were engraved on the classroom teacher signs for the elementary school. High school classroom signs were given specific graphic symbols for each subject such as a beaker or atom for chemistry, books for English or the pi or square root symbol for math, he said. Junior Tristan Kesner programmed the equipment and senior James Jackson did the graphics.

They’ve finished all of the classroom signs for both schools and have mounted the elementary school signs. Teens also made “Please Stay Off the Mats” signs and “Stop Signs” for the stage and other school signage.

Poniris said they received the laser cutter through last year’s $20,000 Program Modernization grant from the West Virginia Department of Education. Poniris wants to eventually get the laser circular attachment tool so they can etch designs in ceramic coffee mugs and stainless steel thermoses.

Poniris said they raised around $400 for class supplies at their annual class fundraiser at the Paw Paw Memorial Day Festival. Technical education student Kesner sold and took orders for engraved acrylic cutting boards.

Flying drones

Poniris’ technical education class has also been learning to fly drones. The class has four drones-two Discovery drones and two Phantom 3 Professional drones. The Discovery drones have a range of around one mile and a fixed camera. They can be synced to any Smart device with a camera, Poniris said.

The Phantom 3 drones are more sophisticated, have a five-mile radius, GPS and a return to home function. They can hover and also do surveys, he said. Poniris got the drones through a $2,000 Ecolab grant and additional Career and Technical Education monies.

State awards

Some eight students from Poniris’ technical education classes and STEM Club participated in the West Virginia Technology Student Association (TSA) competitions.

Paw Paw High School eighth grader Daniel Pracht won second place in dragster design. Participants design, produce drawings for and build a CO2-powered dragster according to specifications and specified materials, Poniris said.

High school junior Christian Braithwaite took third place in prepared presentation where participants deliver an oral presentation on a topic provided onsite using a digital slide deck.

Their middle school team of eighth graders Halle Galliher, Liam Hayes and Daniel Pracht and seventh grader Jacob Moreland won third place in catapult design. Poniris said in this category participants design and produce a working, adjustable catapult that propels hollow golf balls at a scoring target. The students and Poniris were unable to attend the national TSA competition in Orlando, Florida due to a scheduling conflict. Next year’s national competition is in Washington, D.C. and Poniris plans to take his whole class to the event.

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this was great to read

this was great to read about . here is a idea . involve the fire department with witnessing the potential usefulness of drones for visual confirmation of conditions at a scene of a reported fire. the drones could alert for the best way to approach a working fire scene