Posted Date: 04/22/2019
Krystal Thomas, 8th-grade math teacher at Livingston Junior High, was one of ten teachers who attended a Summer STEM program at Texas A&M University. The program was an exclusive National Science Foundation-funded training on Internet of Things (IoT), 3-D printing, energy conservation and other avenues of innovation. The Engineering department at Texas A&M University offered one-on-one instruction for a two-week session, during the summer, from faculty and industry mentors. In addition to preparing a model for 3D printing and learning about the effects of 3D printing on material properties, they also used IoT sensors and software all while earning continuing education credits. The professional development program targeted Thomas and others who are passionate about STEM subjects-Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The program focused on teachers of math and science at middle schools. Thomas received instruction on computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing, node circuitry through the use of block diagrams and schematics, she applied the knowledge learned by soldering electronic components on the printed circuit boards. The training allowed teachers to use sensors to collect data and other necessary information to manage the energy use of a building in an efficient manner. She favored the 3D printing and building automation programs and chose to incorporate those into her curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year.
This past fall, Thomas invited representatives from Sam Houston Electric Cooperative (SHECO) to the junior high campus when 8th-grade math teachers were beginning a lesson on unit rates and kilowatts. Rachel Frey, Communications Specialist from Sam Houston Electric Cooperative met with the 8th-grade math students to illustrate how unit rates(8.4B) and kilowatts per hour are used in a real-life scenario to calculate electricity billing. Students conducted a similar project in class by measuring the cost of KWH versus energy usage in class by using bulbs donated by SHECO and power meters and lamps donated by DonorsChoose.org. Students were then taught how to use Google Sheets to organize their data and create a graph representing their data.
Thomas used her 3D printer to produce geometric shapes so that students could gain a better understanding rather than the images on their worksheets. The 3D figures were used while she taught the class how to calculate the area and volume of prisms, cones, and spheres. She also started a 3D printing club called “The 3PC” where she would meet after school with a group of interested students 30 minutes at a time to teach the software. All Thomas asked for in return from the students, was for them to do some research on their own time, and independently design something to be printed out - the research later turned into projects. Thomas said, “ The 3PC was a necessary addition to my afternoons. Due to the growth and progression of technology, I felt that students should learn about engineering at this point in their education, and not wait until they are older - like I did.”
A few 8th-grade students were inspired to research the topic of 3D printing as their Academic Expo project. Dr. Matthew Kuttolamadom, associate professor at Texas A&M University, has a background in Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology, attended the Expo at Livingston Junior High and spent time discussing 3D printing with students and parents.0