BART Charter Public School to offer hands-on course in 3-D design

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ADAMS >> Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School students will get a chance to experience the latest design equipment — including a 3-D printer — in a new hands-on course this fall.

The school was recently awarded funds to purchase new equipment to establish a digital fabrication lab and to create a new high school course called "Discover, Design and Build," according to Principal April West.

"A lot of teachers are very excited," she said Wednesday. "The first thing many of them asked was, 'Can I take the class?' "

The yearlong elective scheduled to start this fall will introduce high school students to a 3-D printer and 3-D scanner, a laser cutter, and a large format printer in addition to design and modeling software, she said.

The initiative will be funded by a $14,992 Creativity and Innovation grant recently awarded from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Grant Coordinator Brian O'Grady noted research that has shown the importance of students building things and learning through trial and error. It's that type of critical thinking that the school administration wants to inspire, he said.

"We recognize that to be prepared for college and the workplace, it requires a good understanding of new digital technology being used," he said.

West spoke about the new lab, dubbed a "makerspace," as complementing the school's mission of inspiring critical thinking across academic disciplines. The administration also envisions students learning group work skills.

The course would be taught by three teachers already at the school who currently teach visual arts, technology and engineering, and physics, West said.

"We're designing the curriculum for the class right now," West said. "In the first trimester, students will do a unit on modeling and the execution of modeling."

Each of the three groups would be charged with creating a design, she said. Then, another group would be assigned to create a model based on the initial group's design.

The BART administration hopes the class will culminate in a final project in which students create a proposal to be presented to a community or organization.

"Students will be asked to identify a genuine issue, concern, or idea and create a presentation," West said.

The school has reached out to local officials in Northern Berkshire, in addition to businesses in engineering or science fields.

"The idea is they'd sit down and talk about local issues, or how they themselves go about a design and give direct feedback," she said.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979.


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