Grant gives Lufkin students interactive preview of STEM careers; 3D printing, robotics

Grant gives Lufkin students interactive preview of STEM careers; 3D printing, robotics
Becky Walker (right) helps a student with his coding while others take advantage of the 3 grants Walker was recently awarded to make the coding, 3D printing, and Lego robotics projects possible. (Source: Courtesy: Reporter Ryan Ordmany)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It will be several years before any students from Lufkin Middle School sit down in a college classroom and learn the skills they will need for their future careers. However, they’re getting an early start Becky Walker’s class.

Five months ago, Walker was one of the dozens of teachers across 10 campuses named as a recipient of LISD’s Prize Patrol grants. The grant serves as a bridge for teacher to invest in innovative learning projects that cannot be funded through the standard school district budget.

“I was very honored to actually receive 3 grants: one for coding, one for 3D printing, and one for Lego robotics," said Walker. “The coding I like to use in my STEM classes and blend into my pre-AP classes as well. It gets our kids thinking like computer scientists.”

As for 3D printing, students built 3D Bohr models to provide a visual representation of what the atom of an assigned element looks like.

(Source: Courtesy: Reporter Ryan Ordmany)

“It was very interesting watching it print, but also it was really kind of difficult and challenged us, coding it," said student Grant Ashby.

“They helped us understand how they were shaped better,” said classmate Sree Karnati. “And it gave us a better visual representation of it, so it gave us a better understanding of the whole entire unit.”

It may sound like the most exciting for a student, but the Lego robotics grant is still a work in progress.

“My students in my Robotics Club have competed before in the Angelina County Science Fair with robotics,” Walker said. “And now, we’re trying to branch out and push out students to the next level, so we are entering the first ever Lego robotics competition.”

Having a great time in the classroom isn’t the only goal in mind; Walker said giving students so many engaging ways to learn offers them a look at the real world.

“You know, not just the paper and pencil we put before them, we want them to experience things,” Walker explained. “So, in my class, and like many others here at Lufkin Middle School, we like to put our kids in situations... where they could use things as they would in the workplace, in their field.”

Evident by the buzz in the classroom as students discussed the correct coding to produce the desired 3D model, Walker’s strategy appeared to be working. She added that exposing students to tools of higher learning may flip a switch, so to speak, inside a student’s mind.

“You never know what light, per se, you’re going to turn on as a teacher,” Walker explained. “We want to give them all that we can so they can find their niche, or discover their niche that they weren’t quite sure that they had within them.”

Several of her students agreed that by putting pencil and paper aside -- at least some of the time -- to get hands-on with their lessons has already inspired them to dig into future careers well before they ever enter a college classroom.

“It’s definitely opened my eyes to more engineering fields, and I’m definitely considering it for a job later on in life,” said Ashby.

“I like doing chemistry, so making 3D models like this really help us understand elements and different types of compounds,” said student Ashley Jalvan. "Stuff like this has brought really nice technology into our classrooms."

“It made the experience better,” added Karnati. “Instead of just reading from the textbook or taking notes, it made us understand it better by using visual representation that we enjoyed.”

(Source: Courtesy: Reporter Ryan Ordmany)

The coding program, 3D printer, and other grant-based projects launched within Lufkin ISD were made possible by the district’s Education Foundation, which uses donations to award teachers with grants through the Prize Patrol.

On Thursday, Jan 31., Lufkin ISD will hold a Grant Showcase to allow students, teachers, and potential donors to see how donations directly impact students at Lufkin ISD. Walker’s projects will be presented alongside four other projects from varying grade levels. The Grant Showcase will be held at the Pitser Garrison Convention Center at 5 p.m. and the event is free to the public.

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