By Libby Smith

RIFLE, Colo. (CBS4) – Every month during the school year, CBS4, along with its partner PDC Energy, honor a high school student who is excelling in science, technology, engineering or math, STEM. Future Leaders winners get $1,000 and profile on CBS4.

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April’s winner is Conner Harte, a senior at Coal Ridge High School in Rifle. Harte took on a project that not only helped a fellow student, but also furthered his education at the same time.

“The text here is in the center when in reality it should be on the left side,” Harte said while showing one of the many problems with the old classroom signs in his school.

Students with visual impairment will feel for braille letters on the left, and will miss braille writing that’s centered on the sign. In many cases, the braille on the old signs is simply wrong.

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The project seemed simple enough. Harte agreed to design new, correct signs, make them, and replace the old one. A freshman student with visual impairment inspired the project, and Harte was happy to help.

“I realized that it would be a good opportunity for both my education, and it was a good way to help this incoming freshman feel more accepted and feel better about themselves at this school,” Harte explained.

“That is so wonderful,” Meteorologist Lauren Whitney responded.

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Harte had to learn how to use computer-aided design, CAD, software.

“There was a lot of trial and error when it came to the design process and the manufacturing process to try to create the best possible finish,” Harte said.

He had to figure out how to turn his text into braille.

“I made use of some open source programs and software,” he explained.

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Harte also had to design the project to work on his school’s 3D printers.

“Our 3D printer did not have the capabilities to print the full size plaques for the names of the teachers,” he said. “What we decided to do was to come up with a system to make that so that they could fit together in multiple parts.”

Then repeat the process 150 times for each classroom. For Harte, this project gave him a jump on his college education.

“I’m going to major in mechanical engineering,” he told CBS4.

After hours of printing, Harte’s signs can change as teachers move classrooms, and are helping a student who may feel lost and alone.

“It’s really satisfying to know that I can make someone else feel more included and feel better about themselves.”

LINK: For More Information About Future Leaders

Libby Smith