Career Academy expands students’ STEM skills

Oley Valley School District  |  Posted on

Students of the Oley Valley Career Academy expand their skills to include digital 3D design and production. Beginning with an initial workshop in November, Mrs. Stump’s high school Career Academy class designed their first model, a simple robot, in one 45-minute class. The first models printed with the help of Mr. Buckner’s engineering design classroom and a new program began to take shape. Using tools that were acquired for the Career Academy classrooms in each of the three Oley Valley School District (OVSD) buildings, the program has expanded to support modern employability skills and development for elementary, middle and high school students as life skills education shifts to a 21st-century-skills focus.

The class meets weekly with Ms. Hoffman, OVSD’s STEM and technology integration teacher, to explore new 3D design challenges. Students use BlocksCAD3d, a cloud-based 3D modeling tool that encourages users to learn math, computational thinking and coding concepts through visualization and designing models, and print their work on MakerBot Sketch Classroom 3D printers.

The classes are designing sellable products for Christmas gifts, the Lynx Express and the MS School Store. The first production challenge was to design keychains for Oley Valley School District. Students learned to combine shapes and create letter-shaped holes as they varied their designs. Their initial success generated excitement that led to the OVSD administrative team commissioning over 200 Christmas ornaments to be produced as staff gifts. Mrs. Partridge’s middle school Career Academy class joined the program in time to create additional ornament designs. Between the two classes, nine students learned to create 3-dimensional text and shapes and move them across X, Y and Z planes to create a LYNX ornament. Their process included prototyping and multiple iterations as they explored the features of different fonts, learned to translate the letters so they could be joined into one word shape, then added a ring for hanging centered across the top of the word shape. Ms. Intoccia’s elementary Career Academy class helped with finishing work by preparing ornaments for distribution. Teachers and staff received their gifts just in time for Christmas.

This program is an excellent example of students learning through projects that are meaningful and relevant in their school community. As they work together to design, prototype and improve their products, the students find themselves talking through complex math problems, recalling and using specific terminology and unleashing thoughtful communication skills to explain their process and products. The energy of discovery, magnified through collaboration breeds further exploration as they are energized with ideas for new designs. The students are considering plans to introduce customizable products to their respective school stores.