Empowered Teacher Channels Creativity Through Engineering

Alexandria Vaughn is a PLTW Gateway Teacher who loves teaching science. She began as an elementary school teacher and found her way into a middle school after she moved to Hawaii. Her hobbies range from sewing and medieval arts and crafts to scuba, food preservation, cake decorating, and baking.

This is the first year of implementation at the middle school level in the state of Hawaii. As scary and daunting as this new endeavor seemed during Core Training, it has really paid off with the students.

I have to start this off by saying that I am a right-brained person. I don't typically think logically, although I am married to a mechanical engineer. I'm more of a free-spirited and creative soul. The truth is, I was rather intimidated to learn how to model in 3-D. I had seen my husband do it, and it always seemed like magic.

As I sat in my Design and Modeling Core Training, I was actually amazed at how I could meld my creative side with Autodesk Inventor. After learning the basics through the Pegboard Toy Activity and Playground Design Problem, I found that my Furniture Design Project was something I was actually looking forward to completing. So fast-forward a few months: There I was on day one of school, staring at these bright-eyed students who had given up band, art, ukulele, and AVID to take my class; it was humbling.

I can still remember the day we did the connecting cube block. The students weren't really that impressed until we extruded our square and turned it into a cube. The oohs and ahhs were everywhere. They really latched on to it and took off.

After completing the Pegboard Toy, we printed one for the students to see that what they were making in 3-D software can actually be brought to life; now it's all they want. Right now, we are melding the Furniture Design Project with the school's science fair. The students are all competing to see whose design will be printed in our 3-D printer: As incentive, the winning designs that move onto district and state science fairs will be printed in our 3-D printers.

The students are working hard in this class. It isn’t simply because they like the content. They do, but they are making things they want to build.

My students are learning more than just how to build and design. They are learning how to communicate, negotiate, compromise, and think critically. They’re using math and don’t even know it. My students are having fun learning and enjoy coming to class. The class challenges them, but in a good way. They struggle, yet work together to overcome the challenge. I love this class, and so do my students.

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