A 3-D printer, robotics floor and drones. Those are just some of the tools available to students in Bryan County High School’s revamped engineering and technology education classroom.
“We try to add something new each year,” said Inga Cashon, who teaches all three class levels in the career pathway program. “This year we completely redesigned the room. It used to have more of an industrial arts feel to it, but now it’s more like a lab.”
The room also contains 30 computers and iPads, plus an 80-foot race track. The track is used to race cars made from blocks of wood (sort of like in a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby) but with one very big difference — they’re powered by CO2 cartridges.
Students also build bridges using only toothpicks and regular glue, but the structures have to be able to hold the weight of a cinder block.
“Sometimes when they’re doing these projects, they’re having so much fun that the learning doesn’t seem like work,” Cashon said.
The theory is known as “project-based learning” and doesn’t require students to have advanced math or science skills in order to succeed.
“We teach to the whole student,” Cashon said. “Assembling the robots, for example, includes color coding in case someone isn’t the best at reading diagrams.”
The robots can be constructed to follow autonomous commands, meaning the finished product has to follow pre-programmed steps, or they can be manually controlled and put through a series of steps by a student using a remote control.
Students use the 3-D printer to create what they design on a computer and include everything from model scale buildings to gears to working nuts and bolts. Field trips to Gulfstream, JCB and the Savannah ports allow students to see technology on a larger scale and in real-life applications.
“When I started teaching these classes eight years ago, students weren’t really looking at engineering as an option,” Cashon said. “Now I’ve got students who want to go to Georgia Tech. It’s been nice to see that transformation.”