E3 Learning CO student Holden Sherard helps design and build a fire-breathing dragon with his mentor, Ed VanDyne
May 20, 2014
For 12-year-old Holden Sherard, the best part of building a sheet-metal and pop-rivet, fire-breathing dragon is giving the burner a test.
The dragon named Pokey has a rounded metal belly that’s Holden’s favorite part, and it’s where the dragon keeps the propane tank to fuel the fire he breathes from the weed burner attachment in his mouth.
Holden, with the help of his mentor Ed VanDyne, took his 5-foot, 70-pound dragon to school May 8 to give his presentation of learning for E3 Learning CO, a personalized education program offered through Thompson School District and housed at Ferguson High School.
“We tried to make it look like a baby dragon,” Holden said, indicating the dragon’s pudgy belly, slight smile and wagging tail.
In September, Holden, a home-schooler in the sixth grade, signed up for E3, or Explore, Engage and Expand, and paired up with VanDyne, an inventor and entrepreneur and chief executiveofficer of VanDyne SuperTurbo Inc., in Loveland.
Last semester, Holden began taking online classes in the core subjects and in Spanish and working with VanDyne to design and build a vertical wing for a sailboat. The idea is to give the wing the potential to move the boat at record-breaking speeds and to go at the high speeds, or about 20 miles per hour, in both directions.
A month before the Denver Mini Maker Faire May 3-4, where Holden and VanDyne wanted to present the dragon, they stopped work on the sail to design and build the dragon, a five-week project and one of many VanDyne has brewing to invent.
The two finished the dragon’s tail in a day, Holden said. VanDyne made the dragon’s back and neck, while Holden made the legs.
“(Ed) built the head prematurely,” Holden said. “It doesn’t have a really good back on it. You can see straight through the skull at this point.”
Holden originally designed the dragon’s arms with elbows and shoulders but after some researchrealized mythical dragons have a third joint for the elongated wrist, requiring him to rebuild the arm with stronger metal. The dragon proved too heavy, so the legs had to be rebuilt out of thicker sheet metal, Holden said.
“He seems to like fire,” Van Dyne said about his young partner. “Having the propane built inside is really what we considered the active part. That was a lot of fun for Holden when we were developing that part of it.”
Holden is among 12 students in E3 in a mentorship with an industry expert. The students are asked to give a presentation of learning to analyze what they learned both in content and skillset, talking about their experiences in a dramatic story format in front of a panel that includes E3 staff, their mentors and others.
“He’s so enthusiastic and very inspired. He’s a very hands-on kid,” said Diane McInturff, director of E3. “The kids have the opportunity to recap and rethink everything they’ve done and examine their progress.”