School district invests in engineering technology

By: Linda Shepard | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published April 1, 2019

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BIRMINGHAM — District students will soon see new engineering technology equipment.

“Why engineering technology?” Hallie Snyder, Birmingham Public Schools coordinator for career-focused education, asked during a March 19 presentation before the BPS Board of Education.  “Why is that even a program we offer in our district? Because business and industry is begging for qualified and skilled workers to fill many open positions. Because employees are lacking the training in those positions — especially in the area of engineering, computer science and other STEM-related fields.”

The term STEM is defined as a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  

“It is no secret that there is a tremendous amount of interest around STEM and engineering in today’s world,” said Joseph Hoffman, BPS assistant superintendent. “The idea is to expand opportunities in our school district — introduce some technologies where none exist right now. We want to invest in brand-new technologies and traditional equipment utilizing our 2015 bond funds.”

Hoffman said the district plans to purchase 3D printers; laser cutting and engraving equipment; design, metal, wood and plastic processing equipment; robotics kits; laptops and routers; and more for a cost of $229,040 paid for with budgeted funds.     

Robotics kits are designed to give students a first experience with robotics, “and teach how to program a robot to do what you want it to do. It is a first step in,” Hoffman said. “The large pieces of equipment have a long life span — about 10 years or more.”

Recent BPS middle school and high school student engineering and technology projects included a cardboard chair design, the design and launch of a rocket, and a model for a tiny house.

“What we are finding is that the students are creating really intricate designs, but some of the tools they have to create those are limited,” Snyder said. “By adding a new laser cutter and a router, it will help to create more precise parts to help them develop better and more innovative products.”

“We have old table saws that are 50 years old,” Hoffman said. “The teachers won’t even let the students use them because they are pretty dangerous. New table saws have built-in technology designed to keep everyone safe.”

 District officials aim to introduce the new equipment to parents and those interested during upcoming open houses, robotics competitions and STEM nights.

“There are great things happening in our classrooms every day, and the more we can share this with the community, the better,” Hoffman said.

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