Middle school creates makerspace to promote STEM

Published: Feb. 4, 2019 at 5:40 PM EST
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This is not your grandparents' school shop class. It's a convergence of traditional tools and new technology, all with the purpose of promoting science, technology, engineering and math. It's the new makerspace at

"It's kind of the direction our standards are going," explained Principal Paige Wright, "wanting students to not only learn knowledge but be able to apply it."

Seventh grade science and math teacher Donna Widner enthusiastically began with safety and procedure training sessions for students. She listed rules on the white board for using tools. She pointed out the need for safety glasses and did some demonstrating. Then she let the students begin to explore the room.

ORMS now has three new 3-D printers, plus multiple sets of tools and supplies for students to use.

Widner said class projects will eventually include designing and building a biomedical device. "That is where the kids have to have a project. They have to ask what seems to be the problem. They have to imagine how they would solve that problem. Then they plan, they design, they create it."

Thousands of dollars worth of equipment for the makerspace is possible because of a variety of community support. This includes some federal grants, plus gifts from Oak Ridge Associated Universities and the Oliver Springs Education Foundation.

The students are just beginning to learn how to use their new tools to create project. Seventh grader Ian Cline said about the 3D printer, "Put the shapes in or just the models on the little, I'm sure what to call it. But it sends it to the 3D printer and the 3D printer makes it."

Katie Melhorn has been practicing making a few different shapes on the 3D printer and explained it this way, "You put all the parts on the work plane. And the 3D printer melts up some plastic."

All of the students must learn coding in order to create projects with the 3D printers.

Their teachers hope these students will learn skills to help them excel in college and career paths that are heavily dependent on technology and problem solving skills.