Creswell, Education

Pro tips: Teacher has students on ‘real’ path

Riley Koch shows the design he made, which he then 3-D prints. Koch is the ”best 3-D guy,” said teacher Stan Mercer. Aliya Hall/The Chronicle

CRESWELL – Stan Mercer is sure of a few things, and one of them is this: Students don’t get jobs anymore just using hand tools.
The Maker’s Class teacher said that to prepare students properly for the future it was important for Creswell Middle School to have the right equipment. That’s how students get a taste of what it would be like to work in a manufacturing profession, he said.
”I don’t want students to feel underprepared,” Mercer explained. ”This education for us needs to be more than hobby shop, it’s an opportunity to see what the profession looks like as a real job.”
Earlier this year Creswell Middle School purchased a CNC machine and 3-D printer, to start students on this learning track at a younger age.
Even though the high school has an industry-grade CNC machine, students now have the opportunity to learn those skills earlier to carry with them into high school.
”It’s the wave of the future,” principal Shirley Burrus said.
A CNC machine uses computer programming to control the manufacturing process, freeing up workers to assemble the parts. Similarly, a 3-D printer uses computer programming to print a 3-D copy of an image using plastic.
Mercer compared the printing process to a glue gun, where plastic is heated and molded together.
”The machines work ‘after hours’ and there’s a lot less wasted materials,” Mercer said. ”It’s cheaper and more efficient.”
He added that he didn’t want students to graduate and try to get a job in the industry while only knowing how to use a table saw. He wants students to go in with a portfolio of projects done using this equipment.
Although Mercer does his best to stay on top of the tools, he said that for the students who are passionate about this work, they know more about it than he does. One such student is eighth grader Riley Koch.
”He’s my best 3-D Print guy,” Mercer said. ”My task was to give him the opportunity and technology to support him to do what he wants to do.”
Koch has started to design his own models using tinkercad – a free program that has geometric shapes available to build designs. Koch has made replica models of the Hindenburg and Titanic, as well as scaled chairs, a filing cabinet and door for his GI Joes.
”The designing part is really fun and it’s really easy too,” he said. ”It’s just basic shapes like cubes and spheres.”
Mercer added that while it might be easy for Koch, it’s not necessarily easy to do.
Both the CNC Machine and 3-D Printing requires knowledge of math, whether it’s geometry or decimals.
Mercer said that for students like Koch, who will spend time outside of school hours working on a project, they’re doing homework without realizing they’re doing homework.
The only downside Mercer has found is due to the time it takes – some relatively small models can take hours to print – when a mistake is made in the design process, there isn’t a way to get that time back.
Despite that, Koch said everyone should give it a shot: ”It’s a way for kids to do something that isn’t on paper.”



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