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Grants help build middle school’s Makerspace

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COLERIDGE – Laurel-Concord-Coleridge’s middle school campus in Coleridge has utilized grants to boost its STEM technology with 3-D printers, programmable robots and other tools.

In the summer of 2023, the Laurel-Concord- Coleridge Middle School began to explore the idea of constructing a Makerspace at the school to emphasize and encourage hands-on discovery, natural creativity and innovation from students.

“We had the opportunity to visit the Randolph Public Library, see their Makerspace in action, and generate ideas as to what we envisioned for our future Makerspace at the middle school,” said Middle School Principal Mark Leonard.

Under Leonard’s leadership, the first grant received for the project was from the Rural Tech Fund for $2,400, used to purchase a Bambu Lab X1 - Carbon Combo 3-D Printer and eight Luma programmable robots.

“The RTF grant was very instrumental in getting the necessary technology into our student’s hands for them to begin to learn about design and create unique products with this equipment,” Leonard said.

The technology has been integrated into the middle school’s Makerspace program and connects with other course offerings for students to learn more about the basics of 3D printing, and build and program robots as they explore and apply computer science skills, he said.

“Technology integration in a school is an ongoing process as we work to meet the ever-changing technology demands of our world,” Leonard said.

Through other grants from Walmart, Toshiba and Casey’s General Store, the middle school Makerspace is equipped with a Circuit machine for vinyl cutting, two small combo heat press machines, a wood engraving machine, and Glowforge technology which allows laser engraving on multimedia including wood, later, glass and acrylic.

Other creation stations in the Makerspace include a Lego and Strawbees (straws and connectors) building tables, a bracelet making station, and a button making station for students to design, create, and innovate what their minds can imagine, Leonard said.

The school’s Makerspace equipment is accessible during technology classes, scheduled class visits and Whatever Is Needed time - a dedicated block for student ventures.

“Students quickly embraced the 3-D printer, excitedly creating items,” Technology Instructor Alex McKamy said in May.

Initially, he gave them free rein to print “anything and everything they wanted,” resulting in various creations, from dragons to toys and fidgets. Using a modeling website, students have been honing their design skills.

“We want to put the newest technology in our students’ hands so that they can gain that super valuable experience, and push them in the direction of what employers want in their skills for their future employees,” McKamy said.

Next, students will be crafting items for the school store and local events.

Leonard and McKamy aim to broaden the range of technology offered in the Makerspace as well as welcome community members into the school.

They’re currently organizing “Community Create & Construct” nights to highlight the technology at the middle school, showcasing student projects and the wide variety of products that can be made in the Makerspace.

Information from The Rural Tech Fund contributed to this article.