By Jason Fastenau, For the Cordova Times
The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classroom at Cordova Jr/Sr High School has been getting a makeover this year! The district has utilized a variety of sources, primarily grant funding, to build upon the already strong program and provide much needed updates to the facilities and STEM tools. Old folding plastic tables have been replaced with new steel and butcher block tables, which provide an excellent surface for projects and activities. An additional 3D printer is now running in the classroom, programmable drones are being purchased and video and photography equipment is being updated. A PC computer lab has also been set up in the room, opening up many possibilities for the school district and the community.
The CHS STEM room is overseen by Ms. Krysta Williams, who is new to the program this year. Williams, previously the 6th grade teacher at Mt. Eccles Elementary School, is part of a cohort of teachers involved in the Teaching Through Technology, or T3 Alliance program. Learn more about that at: https://t3alliance.org/. This program focuses on hands-on activities relevant to the students and community. Student’s interests serve to guide areas of study, and students learn about and work to address real world problems.
The new PC computer lab includes 10 Dell desktop computers configured for STEM tasks. These devices are capable of handling much more intensive tasks like 3D rendering and Computer Aided Design or CAD. CAD involves using computers to assist with complicated design and rendering projects. Professions like architects, engineers, game designers, industrial designers and manufacturers extensively utilize CAD. Within the STEM classrooms, students use the computers to develop 3D models that can be exported to the 3D printers in the classroom to create real objects. One of the challenges at a small school is having teacher schedule time and expertise to offer a full range of elective courses. This new lab opens up the possibility for students to take part in advanced electives courses offered remotely. For example, students can take part in courses like architectural drafting, game design, digital art and illustration or aviation training.
The new desktop lab creates new opportunities for students to take part in the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) sanctioned ESports league. https://asaa.org/esports/ Students will compete against other teams across the state through this online gaming competition. Each desktop computer has dual 27-inch monitors attached on movable arms mounted to the back of the table. The configuration allows for the monitors to be moved back, clearing the table space for other activities as needed. This ensures the space can be maximally utilized, and prevents the loss of project and activity space from the addition of the computer lab.
The district is excited for the opportunity the STEM facility provides for CHS students. Learning about science and technology through hand-on activities and projects gives students much more interesting and engaging opportunities, and helps guide them towards solving local needs.
Jason Fastenau is the technology director at Cordova Jr/Sr High School. This piece is part of a monthly series highlighting different aspects of the Cordova School District.