To many, Halloween is a time for tricks and treats, howls and haunts. For many students in the School of Engineering, the scariest yet most fulfilling moment of the holiday season involved presenting custom-made costume pieces to the children at Higher Ground, an after school nonprofit dedicated to supporting Orange County youth who face significant challenges at home. This partnership allowed Chapman students to provide at-risk youth with a precious opportunity: the chance to feel that their interests and dreams are both valued and important.
The process began by asking each grade-schooler one question: what do you want to be for Halloween? For each costume, the possibilities were virtually limitless; no matter what was envisioned, Chapman students would apply what they had learned in class to bring a child’s imagination to life.
“No matter how crazy, we find a way to make it,” explained Jackson Goldberg (Computer Science, ‘23).
With high stakes, big dreams, and a deadline just four weeks into the future, the groups got right to work. Students combined a variety of skill sets and mediums to craft their costume pieces. Beyond embodying what their grade-schooler had envisioned, all costume plans needed to factor in functionality, comfortability, and interactivity. For some groups, this involved tinkering with all manner of electronics; for others, it meant integrating both 3D printing and sewing into the final design.
Goldberg worked alongside classmates Daisy Fernandez-Reyes (Software Engineering, ‘25) and Kalin Richardson (Software Engineering, ‘26) to fabricate a Japanese dragon costume for their grade-schooler. The tail, wings, and headpiece were constructed using a mixture of structural materials to allow for wearability–a child’s bike helmet, PVC piping, chicken wire, and fiber fill–as well as decorative elements to develop the dragon image, including a 3D-printed eye, interior lights, and felt hand-cut into the shape of scales, teeth, and horns.
When 3D-printing their grade-schooler’s “Star Wars” costume, Olivia Armstrong (Data Analytics, ‘23), Connor Martindale (Data Science, ‘23), and McKinley Pieper (Business, ‘24) saw an opportunity to turn an unexpected obstacle into a clever success. When their first print of the iconic Stormtrooper helmet proved to be too small, the group recognized utility in its shape and size. They opted to transform it into a customized candy bucket that could be used while trick-or-treating.
“Things are going to fail more than they will go right, but the whole process is very rewarding,” Armstrong stated.
When the costumes were completed, the Chapman and grade school students reconnected at Higher Ground. One by one, groups presented their creations to their respective grade-schoolers, watching each child’s eyes light up at the sight of costumes designed specifically for them.
For Jerry Perez (Business Administration, ‘23), this experience was much more than a chance to see his grade-schooler adorn the Minecraft creeper costume he helped build, admire its glowing eyes, and set off explosion sound effects with the click of a button, the moment also allowed him to reflect upon how their hard work had opened doors within the engineering field for local youth.
“When I was a kid, 3D printing wasn’t as developed as it is today. There were times I wished I’d had the ability to make these things, like creeper heads for Halloween, but it wasn’t accessible in school yet,” said Perez. “It’s really neat to now grant that exposure to people who are younger. You never know what they might grow up to do.”