When Joseph Bradley, superintendent of Connellsville Area School District, needed an affordable and quick solution to a dilemma with the doors at one of the district’s elementary schools, he knew just where to turn.

He engaged with the high school’s technology education department at the high school, where Brian Anderson, tech ed., digital modeling and fabrication instructor and his students tackle real problems and come up with real solutions. In this case, the students analyzed, designed and created a prototype for a doorstop/locking mechanism for the doors at Bullskin Township Elementary School.

“The project to provide doorstop/locking mechanisms provided a real-world hands-on experience for Mr. Anderson’s class that involved the application of skills learned in not only his classroom but the analysis, synthesis and collaboration skills learned in all of our classes,” said Bradley of the project.

From the Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory) in the high school, Anderson said the students designed the pieces on a 3D model program using computer-aided drafting and then built the mechanisms from scratch using a 3D printer, which can “rapidly produce a prototype idea.”

“It’s pretty fast,” said Anderson, who added that the lab has multiple machines provided by the district and grant funding to allow the process to be quick and efficient.

It’s perfect in an educational setting because “the more time students have to see their ideas come to fruition,” he stated.

Although the final version is a marvel, Bradley said the really unique thing was watching how the process went.

“The students did a great job designing prototypes and learning from their first less-than-successful attempts on how to fail and move forward to persevere until you reach success to solve a real world problem,” said Bradley.

Regardless, the locking mechanisms were so well-received Bradley placed additional orders for them to be used in other areas of the district. Anderson said after the design was finalized, the students also used a laser cutter to create the mechanisms.

Anderson said he really enjoys when his department gets to work with other departments at the district including, business, art, i-media and others.

“The best is when we get to work inter-departmentally. They give us the idea, and we come up with the solution.”

Other projects the Fab Lab has pitched in include vinyl signs, signage fixes and quick fixes like the doorstops.

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