Ascension Parish teachers, students getting to use commercial-grade technology

Ascension STEM teachers

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Middle school students in Ascension Parish are about to learn how to build things with the same commercial-grade machines engineers use every day. The new 3D printers are part of the school system’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum.

School is well underway at Dutchtown Middle, but on this day, teachers from across the parish are the ones learning. Their lesson is linked to a brand new, high-tech 3D printer. STEM elective teacher, Stephanie Gaspard, and others are using a software called 3D IronCAD to design models that will be manufactured in the classroom. “We are able to put the kids to a challenge to create something and they can get into the 3D software and be able to make that prototype,” Gaspard said.

The brackets on the projector screen are a launching arm for a catapult, which will be designed by 7th graders. The teachers' prototype is being built inside the printer. Later this year, 8th graders will be tasked with building the correct sized legs to make a robot model walk.

Technical Training Aids Applications Engineer Jeremy Standlee says they will be using the same kind of software one might find in local plants. “It is a way to get the technology used in industry in the hands of the students,” Standlee said. In just two hours, students get to pull their prototype from the printer and test it.

Director of Ascension Parish Middle Schools Edith Walker says the cutting-edge technology is the closest she has seen to real thing. The goal is to get students ready for any career. "Engineers, scientists, doctors, I mean, even if you are interested in law, you analyze all the time if you are interested in law and science takes you through those same analysis,” Walker said.

The curriculum and training are provided at no cost through a program at Georgia Tech. Ascension Parish is the first school system in Louisiana to implement the pilot program. Prairieville, St. Amant, and Lowery Middle schools also got 3D printers. Walker says eventually, all eight middle schools in the school system will be equipped with one.

They cost $18,000 each and were funded by the school system.

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