New STEM Design Lab at Oak Middle School
During the 2018-2019 school year, the Colonial Fund was the primary contributer towards the transformation of Oak Middle School’s Technical Education classroom into a new Design Lab. This transformation took place under the guidance of Jeremy Mularella, Oak’s new Design Lab teacher and the former science teacher on Oak’s 8 Gold team.
"There there is shift taking place with how "Tech Ed" and "Engineering" are taught in school, especially at the elementary and middle levels. It's changing from a traditional mindset where all students design the same product and [compete] to have the best performing design, to more of a "maker" mindset where the focus is more on the process and not so much the final product. It encourages more student choice, creativity, and critical thinking. I also want to expose students to new developing technology such as coding and 2D and 3D digital manufacturing using tools such as vinyl cutters, laser cutters, and 3D printers." ~ Jeremy Mularella
Both 7th and 8th graders are required to take an Engineering course for a 30 day rotation. For 7th graders, the new design lab curriculum focuses on engineering based on "Extreme Redesign". Students will use engineering design to improve a product that already exists or create a brand new product that meets a clear need. This concept lends itself to the interative process of creating designs and prototypes.
Also, students will learn one type of design software, depending on which tool they need to use. If their product is to be made on a 3D printer, they will spend time learning Tinkercad. If they are going to use the laser cutter, they will spend time learning Gravit Designer. Since all students should know how to use both types of software and tools, self-directed online course modules for both software products will be created for students to take. This way, if they need to design something for a future class, students will have the necessary skills to use either product. The course modules will be available to others as well and will be mandatory for any student or staff who want to use the laser cutter or 3D printers.
3D printer 3D printed drone parts laser cutter, filtration laser cut clock
8th grade students are focusing on identifying needs/problems that can be solved through engineering. Groups of students are matched with a real-world problem or need submitted by a student or staff member. They then meet with their "client" who submitted the request to go through iterative design ideas to reach a mutually satisfactory solution, which the students must create.
The students are using 'human centered design", which is a blend of design thinking and engineering, with a strong focus on empathy. This type of engineering focus is becoming more popular at the college level as well. The students create multiple prototypes which they can test and revise over their 30 day cycle. At the end of the cycle, final products are presented to clients. In the future students may branch out more into the community for their design ideas. One example would be partnering with the senior center and having students design assistive devices for seniors.
The design lab converts to a true "makerspace" on "Maker Mondays" when the lab is open to students and staff to use the different materials/tools in the room to explore their own personal interests, whether it's learning how to fly a drone, use Tinkercad to create a 3D model that they then print on the 3D printer, or use more traditional wood shop tools to create something they designed. For the most up to date information on what is happening on "Maker Mondays", please visit their site.
To see a video presentation by Jeremy Mularella and some of his students, discussing the exciting projects they have been working on, click here.
Click on the above picture to see how 2 students made this #littlebits invention for inside a pillow. The pressure sensor input controls two small LED lights and a speaker. When your head rests on the pillow, you can fall asleep the soothing sound of Taylor Swift.
On May 31, 2019, the Oak Middle School Design Lab held an Open House, inviting all donors who participated in our challenge to raise $15,000 for the new Design Lab last fall. Here is a video created during the Open House, showing the enthusiasm and excitement of the adults who were "engineers for a day" and the pride the students had in showing parents and school leaders around their classroom.
Updates to the Design Lab included:
Drone parts and supplies so students can design and construct their own
Funding this new STEM Design Lab was not in the School Department operating budget. We are grateful to the 50 individual donors who made the new Design Lab a reality!
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