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School district may buy rapid prototype machine

By: David Wallace | Farmington Press | Published September 5, 2012

FARMINGTON — The Farmington Public Schools Board of Education may agree to purchase a rapid prototype machine Sept. 11 that would bolster its science and engineering curriculum this year.

A proposal to buy the machine was put before the board at its Aug. 21 meeting. In February the board voted to expand its STEM education program — science, technology, engineering and math — using a free curriculum called Project Lead the Way.

Project Lead the Way features hands-on, project-based courses. To fully realize the program, the district needs rapid prototype machines for Farmington, Harrison and North Farmington high schools, according to Naomi Khalil, the district’s director of instructional equity.

“The rapid prototype machine would allow students in the STEM program to produce three-dimensional, physical products to test engineering designs and produce product prototypes similar to what is used in real industries,” Khalil said. “With the implementation of the rapid prototype machine, students will have a more complete understanding of the engineering process from the beginning stages to final production. The cost estimated for each machine is $36,000.”

Khalil looked into the district’s options with Farmington High School teacher Heidi Skodack, who teaches engineering and technology classes.

“Heidi and I pursued a number of different options. We did not find any … used machines that met the specifications that we’re required to have, and so then we looked at how could we fund at least purchasing one and, for this first year, share it,” said Khalil.

The plan is to use Career Focused Education grant money from Oakland Schools — money meant to purchase equipment — to cover the rapid prototype machine’s cost, and to place the machine at Harrison High School, due to the school’s central location and available space.

School Board President Frank Reid said he hopes the district might find a way to get the other two machines.

“Because this kind of work is really very significant in terms of preparing students for future careers, I wonder — and because of the number of industries that we have represented in Farmington-Farmington Hills — whether it wouldn’t be prudent to maybe go to some of our industry friends and see if they would support the purchase of the other two machines,” said Reid.

“That’s definitely on our agenda this year,” said Khalil. She said they tried without success last year, but she attributed it to poor timing.

“We do have a number of partners who I think would step up and help offset the cost,” said Khalil.

The purchase of the one rapid prototype machine will be back for board approval at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Schulman Administrative Center, 32500 Shiawassee.