By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — Math and engineering teacher Dave McDonald was grinning from ear to ear as he sat in a conference room and displayed the not-yet-assembled pieces of a weather station commissioned by another teacher. His joy came from being with the five young students who designed the blocks in the first advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and engineering class taught by him at Belmont High School.
McDonald said his advanced students, most of whom were in the first semester of their sophomore year, had taken one block of STEM at the Huot Technical Center, had liked it, and had wanted to continue with the program and take the advanced class.
"They had already learned the basics and now needed to make a practical application," McDonald said.
But rather than sending the students back to the Huot Technical Center in Laconia, Superintendent Maria Dreyer looked through her budget and realized she could provide a similar program using SolidWorks, a 3-dimensional printing company with an education component the district could purchase, and, with McDonald as teacher, hold the advanced class at Belmont High School. He is teaching the initial STEM-engineering class to younger students this semester.
One of the keys to Dreyer's program was McDonald himself – a math teacher and former education director she recruited from the Christa McAuliffe Center three years ago.
The five students – Tommy Pare, Connor Jackson, Jason Clay, Logan Clough and Ian Remenar – examined the pieces of the weather station with an air of satisfaction.
They explained how they treated the weather station design like a business would treat any customer order. They had a customer who wanted a product. After an interview with him to see what exactly he wanted, they created the design using the SoftWorks technology, brought it back to the customer, did some revisions, and took it to Eptam Plastics for production after final getting customer approval.
The students said Eptam personnel made some specific suggestions, so they incorporated the alterations into the final design and Eptam Plastics made the components. MacDonald said he had just gotten the finished pieces from Eptam and would be assembling the weather station with the students at some point.
Jackson said they made use of McDonald's time during Belmont High School's "power hour" or a 45-minute to an hour period of time during the middle of the day when students can work outside of the classroom on projects with the guidance of their teachers.
One of the other projects for the advanced STEM-engineering class was trying to see how a 3-D printer would work on a space shuttle or in zero gravity.
The students also said that while they liked going to the Huot Technical Center, they also enjoyed taking their advanced class in Belmont, largely because it took less time out of their days to stay in Belmont, because of their access to power hour and because they like McDonald so much as a teacher. Dreyer said many of her eighth-graders are taking pre-algebra in middle school, so they come to high school ready to take the STEM-engineering elective.
Dreyer sees it as a win-win for the high school. She said the money the district saves by having its own STEM-engineering electives in Belmont allows her to send more students to the Huot Technical Center for some of their other programming. She said that with some reductions in the amount of reimbursements being sent to sending districts from the state to offset the costs of technical education adding this program was a way to keep the budget down.
She said the goal is to provide the best and highest number of electives for all of Belmont's High School students at the least cost to the taxpayer.
Belmont science teacher Dave McDonald and recent students of the Advanced Belmont High School STEM and Engineering Program, Tommy Pare, Connor Jackson, Jason Clay, Logan Clough, and Ian Remenar have been learning about 3D printing. In the middle is Superintendent Maria Dreyer – Laconia Daily Sun Photo – Gail Ober
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 616