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Spotlight On...


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.   engineers for a day

New STEM Design Lab at Oak Middle School

For the 2018-2019 school year, the Colonial Fund is excited to help support the transformation of Oak Middle School’s Technical Education classroom into a new Design Lab. This transformation is taking place at the hands 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 they try 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

For 7th graders, the new design lab curriculum focuses on design thinking and upcycling.  Students are encouraged to be creative thinkers and create new products using old materials in a way that now has more value.  Students learn the differences between recycling, upcycling and reusing items.


                            wood pallets reused                                          water bottle upcycled                      corks recycled into a new container

Colonial Fund dollars helped purchase a new vinyl cutter for the classroom that will help students with the 2D design of their new products. Students can etch and cut a variety of materials, like different fabrics, leather, and paper products, depending on the new product they are trying to create. 

Vinyl cutter in lab

vinyl cutter

To get their creative juices flowing, all 7th grade students start their time in the design lab with a series of challenges using only cardboard as their material.  The Colonial Fund helped purchase MakeDo construction tools that allow students to cut and connect pieces of cardboard together in whatever way they can imagine.  

MakeDo tools   Shoes created from cardboard   Dark and spotted cardboard ukelele   Magnetic marker holders    Cardboard shoulder bag

          MakeDo tools                     shoes from cardboard               cardboard ukele                   magnetic marker holder                  backpack

The 8th grade design lab curriculum expands into coding, physics, and eventually some 3D printing fabrication, all taught in the context of drone technology. With Colonial Fund dollars, Mr. Mularella purchased 7 Ryze Tech Tello mini drones (plus batteries and charging hub) for the classroom.  Students program their drone to complete an indoor obstacle course, using block coding. They also learn the fundamentals of flight and how Newton's Laws can be applied. 

                               Student flying drone with iPad

                                  Design Lab student flying drone with ipad (click to play video)

The Colonial Fund helped purchase a portable storage system that will contain many of these tools and others to essentially create a "makerspace on wheels" for the school. Teachers can sign out the storage system and use the materials and tools it contains for projects they are doing in class. 

Portable storage cart has yellow bins

portable storage cart on wheels

The classroom space will eventually transition into a school makerspace that is open to all students and staff to tinker, design, and create. Also, "Maker Mondays", will be established, which will be open workshop time for 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. Hopefully, the design space can be made available to the community in some way as well. 

Future plans and needs for the Design Lab include:

Please help us to fund the $20,000 needed to purchase these materials by making a donation here.

To see a video presentation by Jeremy Mularella and some of his students, discussing the exciting projects they have been working on, click here.

The slide presentation can be found here.

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