Imagine a group of high school students who all have different interests (art, engineering, technology, entrepreneurship) collaborating on a project that requires them to produce a product and present it to their peers. Can you picture it? It might be tough to visualize kids with such different interests finding a common ground. But that’s exactly what students need to do in order to succeed in the 21st century. They need a place to work together and understand the role each person plays in the process. The Design & Technology Center, located in the high school’s new STEAM addition, will be exactly that place—and much more.
The central area of the Design & Technology Center is a 21st-century classroom (see p.1) that houses high-powered computers supporting Computer-aided Design (CAD) software students need to turn their ideas into designs. From there, students’ ideas spring into existence in the surrounding manufacturing rooms: the STEAM Fabrication Lab, the Materials Processing Lab, and the Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) Lab. These modern-day labs are well-lit, well-ventilated open spaces that have essentially replaced the school’s antiquated wood and metal shops.
“The physical space of the technology labs is dynamic and flexible, which makes it conducive to creativity, innovation, and fabrication,” says Science and Technology Education Supervisor David Collins.
The Center, as a whole, is where students learn about the
engineering and manufacturing process, which is how
products move through the design phase (idea development, sketch, CAD, prototype, testing) to production and delivery (manufacturing, packaging, delivering, marketing).
BH-BL’s future engineers, builders, designers, welders,
technicians, robotics programmers, craftsmen, etc. will
collaborate with peers and teachers to experience multiple
facets of their field of study and learn a variety of relevant
skills and competencies that will better prepare them for their
next steps, whether it’s college or a career.
Students will also have the opportunity to use the Center’s latest equipment and technology, which is typically only seen in college-level labs and industry-caliber work environments. They’ll explore different materials and learn to use a variety of machines required to create their product. Many of the school’s outdated pieces of equipment were upgraded or replaced with Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) machines. CNC machines are electro-mechanical devices that manipulate machine shop tools such as mills, routers, lathes, and grinders, using computer programming inputs.
“One of our main goals is to have students become highly knowledgeable about advanced technology and machinery so that the transition from high school to college or technical programs or careers is seamless,” says Collins. “And our new cutting-edge Design & Technology Center will do just that. Our students will be working on machines that most other high school students won’t see until later in their studies or careers.”
In the STEAM Fabrication Lab, students will have access to a
variety of brand-new, bench-top machines including a mini mill
and lathe, a laser engraver/cutter, and 3-D printers and
scanners. These items, along with traditional tools, will aid in
the creation of various projects typically associated with the
study of robotics and mechanical systems, for instance.
In the CNC and Materials Processing Labs, students will
experiment with a full compliment of larger CNC and manual
machines and equipment. They’ll have access to such metal and
wood-working equipment as cutting, milling,
and crafting machines as well as welding equipment, including virtual welding stations, CNC routers, and more. Students will use these machines to craft larger-scale projects.
“Eventually, we’d like to create capstone courses that blend
multiple areas of study and require students with different
skill sets to work together—much like the real world,” explains
Knowing this, can you now visualize the artist who brings his furniture design to an engineer who moves the idea from paper to production by working with a technician who operates the machines to manufacture the furniture that will be marketed and sold? You likely can, and our students will be able to as well.