Lakewood focuses student growth on STEM education

Lakewood Middle School girls and boys are seeing the world through new eyes these days. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education is more than a buzz word in our schools. Lakewood School District has taken steps to prepare students for a world that does not yet exist, but one that they are going to design and create.

Starting this year, all of our sixth-graders are required to take a Design class that introduces students to Tinkercad — an online 3-D design program that enables students to model items or parts. Its simple interface makes computer-aided design accessible, while linking to production equipment like 3-D printers. Lakewood Middle School teachers Lane Hoback and Ron Detrick are teaching students how to analyze problems, design solutions, and produce items that beautify and improve the lives of others. As a required class, students will learn design and engineering.

In seventh grade, students have the option to take a course called Project Engineering. During the course of this semester class, students work on more-advanced projects, like designing a home within parameters that include specified dimensions and budgets.

Detrick and Hoback say that it is not just about being curious about how things are made but about how kids can learn to collaborate in problem-solving, build trust in others, meet timelines and learn from failures.

In the Project Engineering course, students advance further in the use of Tinkercad and in production equipment like 3-D printing and laser-cutting. Hoback also sees students graduate out of the Design class and opt into his two robotics courses — Lego Mindstorm, available to seventh- and eighth-graders, and Advanced Robotics. For now, both teachers are working out of traditional classrooms that house two Dremel 3D printers. Detrick’s room also offers Bosslaser and Glowforge laser cutters.

Our district recently put construction of a cutting-edge STEM lab up for bid. We are expecting construction of the approximately $885,000 facility — paid for with a portion of our remaining state match funds — to be completed sometime around the end of February. Upon completion, students will have access to six 3D printers, two laser cutters and a computer numerical control machining tool in a design-production lab.

With the new STEM lab and our program at Lakewood High School, we are making a commitment to raising the bar on STEM experiences. Our students will be able to develop increasingly high-level skills in design and manufacturing that offer a multitude of choices after high school.

Scott Peacock is superintendent of the Lakewood School District, which has a monthly column in this newspaper.