STEAM Camp students take products from idea to finished item

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG  Banner Staff Writer
Posted 6/10/16

Thirteen local high school students recently completed a new STEAM Camp put on through a partnership between Bradley County Schools and Cleveland State Community College.

Students took part in …

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STEAM Camp students take products from idea to finished item

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Thirteen local high school students recently completed a new STEAM Camp put on through a partnership between Bradley County Schools and Cleveland State Community College.

Students took part in various hands-on activities to learn about the STEAM subjects — science, technology, engineering, art and math.

For their final project, they created mock-ups of art sculptures which may be displayed on the properties of two area manufacturing companies.

“We’ve been talking a lot lately about how learning does not always happen in a traditional classroom setting with a teacher giving a lecture,” said Arlette Robinson, Bradley County Schools’ career and technical education supervisor. “This is how learning really happens — through hands-on experiences.” 

The camp, paid for by the $4.5 million federal Youth CareerConnect grant the school system received in 2014, allowed students to have some memorable experiences while learning more about STEAM processes and careers.

The campers, all students from Bradley Central and Walker Valley high schools, began the experience by taking a weekend field trip to St. Louis, Mo. There, they toured City Museum, which is known for its unique architecture and activities, and the Gateway Arch to learn about the processes which went into conceiving, designing and building those spaces.

Monday, students divided into two groups to tour two area manufacturing facilities, Cleveland catalyst manufacturer Cormetech and Athens automotive parts manufacturer Denso.

There, they learned about the companies’ processes and how a company will go from an idea to a finished product.

Over the remainder of the week, students learned a variety of skills from Cleveland State instructors, staff of Cleveland State’s OneSource Workforce Readiness Center and others.

Joe McCullough, owner of local themed environment company Theme Fusion, spoke about how students could begin to work on bringing new ideas to life.

Local sculptor Mel Pruitt spoke about sculpture design and led students in creating drawings and paper models of their own sculpture designs.

Later, instructor Chuck Barkley taught students how to create models using computer-aided drafting software.

Cleveland State instructor Jonathan King led teams in choosing materials for their metal sculptures. Once they had finished their designs and chosen their materials, teams welded them together in the college’s new welding lab.

Bre LaMountain of OneSource also taught students about etiquette and best practices for giving business presentations.

The week culminated with a gallery opening during which students presented models of metal art sculptures they created.

“The students have far exceeded our expectations,” Robinson said. “They have been hard at work all week, and they put a lot of thought into their designs.” 

For their final sculpture projects, students divided into four teams of three or four from the same schools. The two teams for Walker Valley based their projects on Denso, while Bradley Central’s two teams created with Cormetech in mind.

Students were tasked with designing metal art sculptures which would represent each company and could be made into full-size sculptures to be displayed at the area facilities.

One Walker Valley team was inspired by Denso’s identity as a Japanese company. Using a variety of recycled metal parts, they created a working fountain modeled after a Japanese crane’s nest, complete with eggs.

The other team from Walker Valley decided to create a tall sculpture which bears the company name and uses Japanese kanji characters to spell out words they felt summarized the company’s mission statement — “Earth,” “safety” and “success.” 

One Bradley Central team chose to create a metal tree with models of Cormetech’s catalyst filters as leaves, after discovering the company’s mission to help keep the environment clean.

The other Bradley Central team created a model meant to be turned into an elaborate fountain. Water would pour from a mock Cormetech filter onto a globe. The globe itself would contain glass mosaics meant to represent the filtering process.

Representatives from Cormetech and Denso were on hand Friday to judge the projects.

This fall, students from the two high schools will begin working to create real, full-size versions of two of those sculptures. Robinson said each participating company has agreed to display a completed sculpture somewhere onsite.

“We’re just happy to be involved,” said Brenda Choate, human resources manager at Cormetech. “Cormetech is very supportive of education.” 

She added the sculptures students came up with appeared to be “very creative.” 

Students who took part in the camp said they were grateful for the opportunity to learn about STEAM subjects while completing a project with real, tangible results.

“This camp was a really neat opportunity,” said Bradley Central student Stephen May. ”It allowed us to take what we were doing and apply it right away.” 

Fellow Bradley Central student Alejandro Suarez pointed out he and his fellow campers had already been learning about the STEAM subjects in high school, but the camp gave them a unique chance to apply what they learned.

Walker Valley student Bailey Mullett said attending the camp was something she would “definitely do again.” 

“It was great,” said Gable Willis, another Walker Valley student. “I learned a lot. Before, I knew nothing about welding or manufacturing. Now, I can do it.” 

Robinson said she is not sure whether this exact camp will be offered next year, but she said the school system is continuing to look for ways to help students build their skills and explore potential careers.

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