Florence students get experience through CAD program, patent

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FLORENCE, Wisc. (WLUC) - A local business in Crystal Falls decided to call upon the next generation to get an idea off the ground, and it paid off.

Crystal Steel House's Randy Peterson had an idea for a snow plow attachment, but needed a little help.

"It's been an issue forever that people with their lawns and their driveways when it does come that time of year when things start to melt or thaw, you have a problem with gravel and torn up yards. It's kind of a job in the spring to make sure everything is good again so this alleviates a lot of those problems. It doesn't have the abrasive action that a normal snow plow would have," says Randy Peterson of Crystal Steel House.

So Randy decide to make an attachment that would hopefully prevent all that trouble. But before he could get a patent, he needed CAD drawings of the design, and that's when he turned to Florence High School students.

"We're doing our best to exposing our students to real world opportunities, we think that really engages them in their learning and makes it really relevant for them in their immediate future," says Ben Niehaus, District Administrator of Florence County.

"I was shocked at first that we were blessed with this opportunity to further our education in the outside world and a little scared because you're making a product for somebody that this is going to be sold to a lot of people and it's gonna matter," says Matthew Dishaw, one of the Florence High School students who worked on the project.

Matthew was one of five students who got together to create this 3-D drawing using a computer program called SolidWorks.

"We start with a blank field and you get a picture in your mind and you do a rough sketch of it, modify everything so it all meets your criteria. You can shrewd it, shape it, it's pretty much an electronic piece of clay. You can do anything with it, build anything out of it that you want," Joshua Sonkowsky, another Florence High School student who helped design the CAD drawing.

The CAD designs paid off - Randy received a patent for his product after about nine months, and created the actual snow plow attachment, called Groundz Keeper. It was a win-win for both Randy and the students.

"It's a good base for them to see in the early stages of their working careers to see what goes into some of the products. I've been in manufacturing my whole life and I hope some of these kids that, we've skipped a few generations with that, and I hope this is an eye opener for them and it's something they'll want to continue with," Peterson explains.

Randy has sold between 600 and 700 snow plow attachments so far. For more information on Crystal Steel House or the Groundz Keeper attachment, you can visit http://crystalsteelhouse.com/.