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VIDEO: Ingenuity praised in senior project

FORESTBURG, S.D. - Dillon Moore drove a tractor to school Thursday, but it wasn't part of any parade. The Sanborn Central senior showed a panel of judges his senior project invention: a tractor attachment designed specifically for rock removal. M...

FORESTBURG, S.D. - Dillon Moore drove a tractor to school Thursday, but it wasn't part of any parade.

The Sanborn Central senior showed a panel of judges his senior project invention: a tractor attachment designed specifically for rock removal. Moore, 18, said he got the idea while brainstorming senior project ideas.

"I just wanted to do something that would help me save time in the long run, and clean up rocks, which break tools, such as planters and discs," he said. "And maybe I could actually make some money off of it, too."

Moore said his parents, Jerry and Pam Moore, farm in rural Artesian, S.D. The family operation manages about 1,500 acres, he said, and raises about 200-250 head of registered Angus. Moore plans to attend South Dakota State University and pursue a degree in agriculture, then return to the family farm. He hopes his attachment, which he's calling the Rock Master for now, will be a valuable tool for his and other ag operations.

Tracy Moody, one of the senior project coordinators and a high school science teacher at Sanborn Central, said each of Sanborn Central's 11 seniors must complete a senior project, and they must have a passing grade. She said the project has four parts: A research paper, presentation, the product and a portfolio. Candi Danek is the other senior project coordinator for the school.

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Moody said students probably spend at least 30 hours on their senior projects, which can cover a broad range of topics.

"We encourage them to pick something they are interested in, might apply to their future or something they have never done," Moody said. "They spend a lot of time (on their projects)."

On Thursday, Moore and others made their year-end senior project presentations to a panel of judges. Moody said the school brings in judges who don't know the students, to provide an unbiased perspective.

Other projects presented on Thursday included Tyler Johnson, 17, creating a practice program and physical education schedule for elementary school classes, designed to get them interested in soccer. Moody said another senior chose to sew a dress, because her grandmother is a seamstress and she had never sewn before.

Tom Hetland made a "Tune Table," an end table with speakers built in. Hetland, 18, said he spent more than 30 hours building the table, which he described as a decorative piece perfect for a living room or college student.

"I worked with wood quite a bit in my past, and I have a great love of music and I like playing it in my room, so I figured, why not combine the two and make something?" he said.

The Rock Master

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Moore described the Rock Master as a combination of a normal rock bucket and rock badger (both attachments for machinery). After seeing how well each of those attachments works on its own, Moore asked, "Why couldn't you put it into one attachment and see how that works?"

After finishing the attachment in February, Moore said he's already put it to plenty of use, and is pleased with how it works. He showed a video during his presentation Thursday, demonstrating how the bucket flips up to allow the digger to go into the ground. Then, the rocks can go in the bucket, which allows the dirt to fall away.

"It's a simple, fast process. It's a lot better than using a whole bucket trying to dig out rocks with," Moore said during the presentation. "It's very fast and effective."

He estimates he spent about 120 hours on the project. Moore said a family friend and neighbor, Shilo Peer, acted as his mentor during the project, helping him design and build the attachment.

Moore is now filing for a patent on the Rock Master, which he hopes to be able to market and sell. Ideally, he hopes to build the attachments for about a year and a half, then sell the patent. He estimates it cost about $2,000 to build the attachment, and hopes he to sell them for about $8,000. Moore said he enjoys building things, but didn't anticipate turning his project into a business.

"It's just something I needed. Maybe in the future I'll look at more things, but for right now I'm just kind of focused in on this," he said.

The judges responded positively to Moore's project, praising his effort and ingenuity.

"I don't think that you gave yourself enough credit in this presentation for the amount of work that you did," said Lydia Ymker, one of the judges.

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In her approximately 12 years at Sanborn Central, Moody doesn't remember a senior seeking a patent on their senior project product -- but praised Moore for his work.

"It's phenomenal," she said.

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