Students get hands on high tech

CU workshop offers immersion course in world of math and science

For dozens of local students on Friday, going to school meant building medical equipment, learning about a 3D printer and writing computer code.

The hands-on science, technology, engineering and math workshop, sponsored by the University of Colorado, allowed students from five schools to be immersed in the world of technology and innovation.

Students from Fruita Middle, Fruita 8-9, West Middle, Garfield Middle and Grand Junction High schools gathered at West Middle School to learn about computer programming, build assistive medical devices and create new products from scratch.

Karma Locke, a Grand Junction High School freshman, worked with her classmates to create a biomechanical arm brace to help people with tendon injuries. By tapping a finger against a handheld panel, the brace is able to move an arm up or down.

“Two of our teammates have had braces, so we took their ideas and put our own input into what would make it more comfortable,” she said. “I like how we get to work with our hands and experiment, and it’s OK if we mess up, because if we mess up we fix it and do it again.”

In another classroom, teachers facilitated a maker’s space, with wood, electric equipment, power drills and a 3D printer. Students worked on their own projects, ranging from locker lights to a cellphone case.

Event coordinator Eric Carpenter, who works at the University of Colorado’s Science Discovery outreach program, said the chance to create without limits can be the best thing for students.

“The goal is help create the innovation generation, a whole generation of kids who are prepared for the modern economy, who can be adaptive and flexible and do jobs that don’t exist yet,” he said.

West Middle School science teacher Heidi Ragsdale said her favorite part of the day was watching the faces of students light up when they realized they would spend the day doing hands-on projects.

“They are designing their future today,” Ragsdale said. “They’re going through the design process as teams and going on to plan and build it. They’re taking problems and solving them right now.”

Ragsdale said it’s unusual for workshops like this to come to Grand Junction because of the school district’s tight budget and distance from larger metropolitan areas.

But a local donation meant a workshop that would usually cost $5,000 was now obtainable.

“There are so many people who support STEM education in Grand Junction, but it’s hard to get that in motion and find opportunities for kids sometimes,” she said. “If we give them these opportunities, it’s the magic of education — giving them time and space and tools and saying, ‘Here’s your problem, how are you going to solve it?’ They come up with ideas that adults would never think about.”


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