Southern’s Westover is a model of ingenuity
SALINEVILLE — Southern Local High School junior Bobby Westover is a consummate creator.
Westover, the son of Robert and Tammy Westover of Highlandtown, spends hours constructing miniature aircraft, tanks and other vehicles and operates with the patience of Job. Should a test flight fail, he simply goes back to the drawing board to perfect his design. That level of skill and ingenuity has amazed school teachers and administrators alike, and they all say there is nowhere for him to go but up.
Ask him why he does it, and he will simply say because he can. His interest came in his youth when he opted to forego conventional directions and respectively turned his Legos and Kinect sets into large semi-trucks with trailers or massive towers. His father’s scrap business has also provided him with a plethora of pieces to construct, but he has spent a majority of his time working on a self-built Computer-Aided Design (CAD) system and a 3-D printer at school to form planes and other moveable objects.
“I never liked to go by instructions,” he said. “Being in a junkyard, you build your mechanically inclined side. I build parts in CAD, which takes longer than making parts by hand. You can do anything with the stuff at school.”
His projects began about six months ago when he noticed a bevy of materials stored in one of the classrooms and decided to make them useful.
“I came in to [teacher Todd Walters’] classroom one day to look for parts and saw things on the shelf. I saw there was nothing I couldn’t do and I built track vehicles,” Westover said, adding that he constructed a 4-Horsepower drag car. “I wanted to do a massive vehicle but needed more parts, so I started to do planes.”
He has been learning on his own about aerodynamics and built four iterations of planes from Mark 1 to Mark 4, three of which were unsuccessful. However, his fourth attempt went airborne at 615 feet and he recently finished a six-foot-long, dual-engine Mark 5 aircraft boasting 12-HP. In addition, he completed a tank featuring a 6-HP engine which he counts as his favorite creation.
“I had never built or flown a plane before and had to learn in the 10 seconds I had it in the air, but now I have a simulator,” he remarked.
Building computers also comes naturally since he assists district Technology Director Josh Manist in putting equipment together for school use. He recalled assembling 10 computers in one night over Christmas break and spends most of his free periods aiding Manist as a technology intern. Westover is often seen in classrooms working on projects, but he also uses his skills to Robotics Club members with their projects.
Although he yields a 2.9 grade point average, he doesn’t base his intellect on the numbers but rather his skills. Westover is interested in engineering but has no set college plans at this time.
“No one does this, so you feel special,” he said. “I’ve accomplished something. To me, it means a lot. To see a plane go into the sky after working on it, it’s a great feeling, and I can’t thank the teachers enough.”
His teachers and school leaders are amazed by his talent, saying he is nothing short of a brilliant mind.
“He is self-motivated and self-paced and thinks outside the box,” said Walters. “The kid is not afraid of a challenge and he’s not afraid of failure. Failure is not failure; failure is a learning option. When he crashed a plane, he went back to the drawing board. He is a true craftsman.”
Walters said the teachers simply facilitate Westover and he works on his own, likening the teen’s innovations to college-level Capstone projects.
“Someone like him, you don’t put a leash on. You let him go. I want to see what he can do. I want him to take it to the maximum limit.”
“Bobby is a good kid with a brilliant mind. He is hyper-focused on projects that interest him,” added teacher Justin Krulik. “He has an out-of-the-box mentality that allows him to set goals that are highly spirited. I gave Bobby a workplace in my room that allows for his creativity and hands on logistics, from design to finished product.”
SLHS Principal Jay Kiger is awed by Westover and said he’s found his purpose in life.
“Bobby has helped Josh with technology, and it was pretty apparent early on that this kid was gifted. He’s taught himself on CAD, which is not easy, and he’s really gifted when it comes to mechanical applications. Our job now is to find a college that will take advantage of his skill set,” Kiger added. “The sky’s the limit for him. When he puts his mind to something, you can guarantee he will get it done.”
Superintendent Thomas Cunningham also praised the young man’s skills.
“Bobby is a high-energy, hands-on student. His brain and thought processes work like that of an engineer. He is always thinking of how something works and how to make it better,” said Cunningham. “He does not enjoy sitting in lectures, but wants to be actively engaged and learning through projects. Bobby has worked with our technology director and this summer was very involved with our virtual implementation and connectivity for students. He has the potential to do great things.”