It’s 2:45 on a Thursday afternoon, and five students are crowded around Old Rochester Regional Junior High School Technology Education teacher Scott McElroy.
The students are learning more about computer-aided design by using CoreCAD, a software program meant to draft designs or technical illustrations.
“They’re first rate,” McElroy says of the five boys. “They’re the students who want to keep going, to understand what the process is. If the bell rings and they haven’t finished, they want to stay late to figure it out, or come back again during free time to work on it.”
As this is the first day of the course, the students are studying a very basic design pattern – a simple gasket.
McElroy stands at the whiteboard, demonstrating what appears to be a long string of formulas. They’re working at a level usually reserved for community college and technical education courses, but the students digest the information easily.
In what seems like no time, they have the first gasket design completed and are on to a slightly more complex model. At the end of the session, McElroy gives the students free time to play with the software and create their own designs. A round of smiley faces appears on the monitors.
The course is part of MakerSpace, an after-school concept McElroy envisioned alongside other teachers. He would like to be able to offer a few different courses each month. This month, he is offering the CAD course. Another teacher is offering courses on building and taking apart electronics, and a third is planning a Halloween crafting course.
McElroy’s students appreciate the opportunity to study the software in more depth.
“We learned this in class, and I really liked it,” said Cole Dennison. “So when Mr. McElroy said he was offering the course, I thought it was really cool, and I said I’d be there.”
McElroy, for his part, is enthusiastic about his charges.
“These kids, I show them something, they go home, they download it, and they do it themselves,” McElroy said of his students. “I offered this course because so many students said they wanted to learn more about CAD.”
He hopes that the program can expand and grow from this starting point. He plans to offer a future course on 3-D printing, something that his students enjoy, and is bouncing ideas with other teachers.
“We really wanted to get the students doing something with their hands,” said McElroy. “We do so much work related to standardized testing; it really diminishes opportunities to learn hands-on skills.”
By Andrea Ray