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Students help bring STEM lab to JHS

Students have helped Jamestown High School develop a fabrication lab to encourage creativity in the school district's curriculum. Four JHS juniors, Madison Aschbach, Jonas Flann, Jon Listul and Jordan Montgomery, and JHS Principal Adam Gehlhar wa...

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STEM GroupJamestown High School Principal Adam Gehlhar, second from left, stands with junior students, from left, Jordan Montgomery, Jon Listful and Jonas Flann. Not pictured for the STEM group is student Madison Aschbach. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Students have helped Jamestown High School develop a fabrication lab to encourage creativity in the school district’s curriculum.

Four JHS juniors, Madison Aschbach, Jonas Flann, Jon Listul and Jordan Montgomery, and JHS Principal Adam Gehlhar wanted more integration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) technology into school curriculum. Their project won a $15,000 matching grant from the North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education STEM innovation and integration program.

“It is a great feeling as an administrator to see that kids are empowered to pursue their passions,” Gehlhar said. “Whenever we can make that happen -- and if this makerspace (community-focused manufacturing) adds another layer to that -- then we are going from a good place to a great place in our classrooms.”

The funds went to purchase a laser cutter, a 3-D printer with prototyping tools, robotics and electronic kits, a quadcopter and other equipment. The students said the makerspace lab will blend the curriculum with real-world ideas.

Incorporating coding into robotics, using a laser cutter for detailed mapping, or using 3-D printers to model complex concepts are just a few examples, Flann said. The makerspace is an ongoing tool for ideas that might not even exist yet, he said.

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“This is project-based learning where we are applying mathematics to the design process,” Flann said. “We can decide what formulas to use to solve problems in different scenarios.”

The makerspace lab integrates math and science into other curriculum and into real life, Listul said. It inspires learning, he said.

“For myself if I just see it in textbook. I can't look around and see the intricate parts,” Listul said. “You can see that by applying an idea and using the 3-D printer.”

The extracellular clubs will have some use of the lab, Montgomery said. It will likely lead to a future robotics club here, he said.

Gehlhar said the makerspace lab is a tool for long-term learning that involves “the head, hands and heart.”

The JHS math and science departments have STEM curriculum and provided input for the project on standards and applications. Project funds also go to train teachers on developing an engineering design process curriculum through the Valley City State University STEM Education Center.

Training teachers will help the program succeed in the long run, Aschbach said. Then it will be natural for students to use the resources when they are inspired to apply mathematics to STEM projects, she said.

“Part of the project-based learning is teaching the students how to use the engineering design process, which really teaches them those critical thinking skills and how to come up with an idea and reach an end solution from that idea,” Aschbach said. “So it teaches your students that you can do what you put your mind to if you have the right method to do it.”

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Montgomery said the STEM group is like a think tank. It started with ideas over lunch and grew from that, which led to several meetings over February, he said.

“We wrote the presentation to sell an idea that we thought would make our school better,” Montgomery said.

The students gave presentations to several area business and 11 of them donated anywhere from $250 to $5,000 toward the project. The businesses include Duratech Industries, Newman Signs, Jamestown Regional Medical Center, MidMach, First Community Credit Union, Orn Dentistry, Interstate Engineering, Medicine Shoppe, Unison Bank, R.M. Stoudt and one anonymous business.

“This is more than just partners in a matching grant but an ongoing conversation to help understand what are the authentic problems and who are the people solving them in those fields,” Gehlhar said.

STEM jobs are projected to grow at 24 percent while all job growth is at 17 percent, Gehlhar said. Learning problem-solving skills and identifying emerging workforce needs firsthand is crucial for 21st century learning, he said.

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Madison Aschbach

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