Dort second grader Claire Wyrabkiewicz checks out her new desk holder May 2.

Dort second grader Claire Wyrabkiewicz checks out her new desk holder May 2.

Photo provided by Joe Genest


Dort Elementary students bond over desk project

By: Maria Allard | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 11, 2022

 Dort fourth grader Aysha Mahmoud is excited about the desk addition. Roseville High School mechatronics seniors, from left, Ethan Poulsen, Kevin Jackson and Jack Tilney, are among the students who made the projects for the Dort students.

Dort fourth grader Aysha Mahmoud is excited about the desk addition. Roseville High School mechatronics seniors, from left, Ethan Poulsen, Kevin Jackson and Jack Tilney, are among the students who made the projects for the Dort students.

Photo provided by Joe Genest

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ROSEVILLE — Students in Meghan Fochtman’s deaf and hard-of-hearing classroom at Dort Elementary School made several new friends this year when they collaborated with students from the Roseville High School mechatronics class.

It all started when Dort Principal Mike Zimmer noticed the deaf and hard-of-hearing students had problems keeping items, like books and pencils, on their desks when they had to open them in class.

“Everytime the kids lifted their desks, the items slid off,” Zimmer said.

The teachers tried cardboard at first, but that didn’t work. So Zimmer contacted RHS teacher Bob Smitka to determine if the mechatronics students in his class would be able to build holders for the desks that would prevent items from sliding off.

In December, the mechatronics students visited Dort. With the help of sign language translators, they measured the students’ desks and also found out what kinds of designs the deaf and hard-of-hearing students wanted on their additions. Basketball star LeBron James and the Yoda character from “Star Wars” were some of the design requests. Some even asked about cup holders.

From there, the high school students got busy. Working in groups and using 3D computer-aided design and prototyping, 3D printing, laser cutting, and electronic add-ons, the mechatronics class was able to make holders for each desk. Using their science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills, the high school students were able to decide what worked and what didn’t.

“Our students learned how to do the design process and what they use in the mechatronics class. It was a work in progress. The students tried to make sure everyone’s was custom fit. Some of the students even chose to do laser engraving,” Smitka said. “I think they did very well. They were brand new to this process. I’m hoping some of these kids will take these skills and go on to become mechanical engineers.”

In February, the Dort students visited the mechatronics class at the high school to see the progress on the desk additions. They also participated in various STEM activities.

The high school students delivered the holders May 2. The delivery would have happened sooner, but COVID-19 caused delays.

“It was really challenging at first. We had technical difficulties with the printers. As we continued to work on the project, it started to work,” senior Jordan Williams said.

Fochtman  thought the project turned out “fantastic.”

“They individualized them for all of the kids,” she said. “That got them interested in the project. Some wanted colors, and some wanted plain.”

“I think it turned out pretty nicely,” said sophomore Nigel Powers, who worked with senior Bryan Stetkewycz.

Through sign language interpreter Jenna Baranski, fourth grader Aysha Mahmoud and second grader Claire Wyrabkiewicz commented on the finished product.

“I like them. I’m excited,” Mahmoud said. “We had cardboard before. This one will be better because it’s harder and solid.”

“I got unicorns on mine,” Wyrabkiewicz said. “I have two unicorns and then a rainbow. Unicorns are my favorite.”

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