Belmont High School STEM program popular with students

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.

CUTLINE (Belmont Science Project) 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. In the middle is Superintendent Maria Dreyer – Laconia Daily Sun Photo – Gail Ober

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

Local merchant seeks funding for solar recharging bench downtown

LACONIA — Bree Henderson of Polished and Proper is seeking to bring the power of the sun to downtown in the form of a solar-powered bench that will charge two mobile devices by capturing rays of sunlight.

Monday, Henderson began soliciting on gofundme.com, hoping to raise $5,000 to finance the purchase and installation of the bench, which she would like to be placed near the millstone fountain at the corner of Pleasant Street and Main Street.

The bench, fashioned of metal and wood to a modern design, is manufactured by Soofa of Cambridge, Massachusetts, an enterprise begun and managed by three women from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of whom Henderson said vacations in the Lakes Region. Field tested in Boston, the benches have withstood the extremes of New England weather as well as the treatment meted out by Bostonians.

"I plan to raise the money, buy the bench and donate it to the city," Henderson said. She would like to have the bench in place by springtime and bearing a plaque reading "Donated by the Citizens of Laconia."

Henderson explained that the battery cell holds eight hours of charging power and, at the same time, the bench collects environmental data that will enable the city to monitor its air quality. The entire device is powered by sunlight and has no operating costs.

The bench itself costs $3,800 plus the cost of delivery and installation as well as a commission for the gofundme website. To make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/eudhfu7d.

The solar bench charges two devices with energy from the sun. (Courtesy Photo)

The solar bench charges two devices with energy from the sun. (Courtesy Photo)

A bad start to the day in Alton Bay

As the weather continues to stay relatively warm, there is not always enough ice to support bob houses. One group of people was seen Wednesday morning rushing to get this bob house off the ice i Alton Bay as the rain fell. (Courtesy Photo/Debbie Lurvey)

As the weather continues to stay relatively warm, there is not always enough ice to support bob houses. One group of people was seen Wednesday morning rushing to get this bob house off the ice in Alton Bay as the rain fell. (Courtesy Photo/Debbie Lurvey)