Colfax High School Students' Prototype Made on a 3D Printer Supplied by Sierra College STEM Collaborative, Takes a Quirky Path

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Colfax High School students created a prototype of a sensor that helps skiers have more control and it was selected by Quirky, a New York-based company that makes invention accessible, for further exploration at the South by South West (SXSW) conference in Austin TX, giving students the thrill of recognition, teaching them the design process and inspiring innovation using a 3D printer provided by the Sierra College STEM Collaborative.

Colfax High School students (LtoR) Autumn Turner, Hailey Elias and Alec Cobabe invented a ski sensor and are learning the product design process as a result of the idea being reviewed by Quirky.

When I heard the news that Quirky was going to send our product to expert review, I was so excited and proud.

While many people dream of turning their good idea into a bestselling product, Colfax High School students are off to a quick start because they made their idea into a prototype using a 3D printer supplied by the Sierra College Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) Collaborative. The students' prototype for the “Fast Forward” ski sensor is going through the design process with Quirky. The New York based company makes invention accessible by reviewing as many as 4000 ideas per week from inventors all over the world, and using a community selection and development process to bring the best ideas to market. A limited number of the ideas make it through the first stage, so being chosen for evaluation by Quirky was a rare honor for these students.

Colfax inventors and avid skiers, Hailey Elias (age 15), Autumn Turner (age 16) and Alec Cobabe (age 16) watched online as Quirky reviewed their product in front of a live audience including panel member, Bill Nye the Science Guy, at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin TX on March 8. The audience voted that the Fast Forward ski sensor prototype should go to the Quirky design team for more exploration. The Colfax students’ invention improves skiing style by attaching to a ski boot and vibrating when the skier is not leaning forward enough in the boot for ideal control.

“It has been a great experience working with Quirky, and I was so excited when it went to the next stage of evaluation,” said Elias. “When Bill Nye clapped for it, I screamed out loud because I was so excited he approved of it. I remember watching him when I was little and I’m still a fan-girl.”

Elias, Turner and Cobabe have been learning about product development from their engineering teacher, Jonathan Schwartz at Colfax High School. The students collaborated to develop the idea into a design, produce prototypes on a 3D printer, wire the sensor, test it on ski boots, refine it and produce a descriptive video for submission to Quirky.

“When I heard the news that Quirky was going to send our product to expert review, I was so excited and proud,” said Turner. “The Quirky experience is inspiring and exciting. We are anxiously awaiting the moment when we can say that we are officially Quirky Inventors.”

According to Garett Van der Boom, Head of International, Quirky is passionate about engaging students in product design. “Quirky removes the difficulties of turning an idea into a product for inventors, and we want to do the same thing for schools so it is easier for students to experience the design process,” said Van der Boom.

“Quirky wants to nourish students’ creativity and get them excited about inventing. Through evaluation, they get feedback from consumers and professionals so they can make improvements. We’d like to lift up a community of students unafraid to fail quickly and keep coming back with new ideas.”

With support from the Sierra College STEM Collaborative, Johnathan Schwartz is developing “Design Challenge” curriculum using the Quirky model. “The students couldn’t have designed and tested the ski sensor prototype without the 3D Printer supplied by Sierra College STEM,” said Schwartz. “Seeing the Quirky evaluation process gave the students a new perspective. They applied their math, reasoning, writing and critical thinking skills to define a problem and work toward a solution. They went through multiple iterations of designing and testing the prototype until it was perfected.”

Don Elias, Hailey’s father, felt this project has made an impact on his daughter. "Hailey views the world differently now,” said Mr. Elias. “She sees problems from a solution oriented point-of-view and thinks ‘how can an invention help alleviate the situation?’"

According to Carol Pepper-Kittredge, Director, Center for Applied Competitive Technologies, Sierra College, Quirky brings the real world into the classroom. “High school programs participating in the Sierra STEM Collaborative are ready for this opportunity to design, prototype and test new product ideas,” said Pepper-Kittredge.

“At Colfax and seven other high schools in our region, we've worked with STEM teachers to develop creative and innovative learning environments specific to manufacturing, product development and engineering career pathways. With Quirky breaking down the barriers, STEM teachers engaging students in the design process and opportunities here at the Sierra College for students to further their skills, we are building a future workforce of innovators who will be assets to employers and our nation’s economy,” said Pepper-Kittredge.

About Sierra College STEM Collaborative

The Sierra STEM Collaborative is funded by California Community College Chancellor’s Office, to create a pipeline of students interested in technical careers. Students can pursue Welding, Mechatronics, Engineering, Energy Technology and Drafting & Engineering Support at Sierra College. For information, go to or contact Carol Pepper-Kittredge, Sierra College at (916) 660-7801.

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