Sunday, September 21, 2014

West Franklin printing 3D vision for students’ future

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 12/13/2013

POMONA — West Franklin High School soon will be on the cutting edge of technology.

Students at the western Franklin County school are preparing to gain new hands-on experience with 3D printers — which can produce three-dimensional solid objects based on computer designs — Dotson Bradbury said.

POMONA — West Franklin High School soon will be on the cutting edge of technology.

Students at the western Franklin County school are preparing to gain new hands-on experience with 3D printers — which can produce three-dimensional solid objects based on computer designs — Dotson Bradbury said.

At Monday night’s West Franklin school board meeting, board members voted to buy a 3D printer to be used in the school’s wood shop, art and robotics classes, Bradbury, school district superintendent, said.

“3D printers are probably one of the newest pieces of technology out in the work environment,” he said. “[Students] in the robotics class create different mechanisms and vehicles and enter them into competition. That printer will assist them in creating a pulley or drive or something like that.”

Parts for the robotics class, for example, can be printed using a variety of materials, but the most common and least expensive is plastic.

“You can now get your clothes designed with [3D printers],” Bradbury said. “Just scan the body and plug that into the printer and with the materials, produce custom-made garments.”

The total cost of the printer and several spools of plastic is $2,844.16, he said. The printer is expected to be ordered this year, with students able to tinker with it the last semester of school.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for students,” Bradbury said. “We had Andy [Azwell] our technology director and assistant principal Matt Brenzikofer go to Osawatomie because they have [a 3D printer] and looked at it over there and were impressed with what it could do and the board was excited to offer another innovative piece of technology to students.”

Also slated for next year is the second phase of the 1-to-1 technology initiative, Bradbury said. The 1-to-1 initiative works on getting a mobile device, such as an iPad, tablet or laptop, into the hands of every student in the district, he added.

“Currently at Appanoose [Elementary] it’s the two fourth grade classrooms and at Williamsburg it’s second and third grade that have [the devices],” Bradbury said.

Instead of iPads or tablets, Bradbury said, the district decided to go with Chromebooks, which are basically Google-affiliated laptops that are Internet-dependent and don’t have applications stored on the computer itself. Instead, all applications are web-based.

“Our IT people have done extensive looking at devices and feel they will meet all of our needs,” Bradbury said. “We can get our initiative completed in a shorter amount of time.”

The shorter time frame and the cost was a large factor in choosing the Chromebook over an iPad, he said.

“For the cost, we can get almost two Chromebooks for the same price of one iPad,” Bradbury said. “We’re finding that people who are a little late to the dance — for lack of a better word — more schools are turning to the adoption of Chromebooks for the same reason.”

The second phase in the 1-to-1 initiative is to get two classrooms at West Franklin Middle School and high school to have Chromebooks in the 2014-2015 school year, in addition to the ones already at Appanoose and Williamsburg, he said.

“For implementation next year, we’re looking at $47,600 [just for the Chromebooks],” he said. “There are $4,200 dollars worth of wireless access points and $10,500 for carts to store [the Chromebooks].”

The third phase will be looked at next year by the board for implementation for the 2015-2016 school year that will put a Chromebook in the hands of every student in the district, Bradbury said. The proposal for the third year and final phase of the 1-to-1 initiative is $138,000. That includes $72,800 for Chromebooks and a little more than $65,000 for wireless access points.

“We think students having access to technology — that’s the world they live in and are going to live in — and our goal is to move to greater use of technology and instruction,” Bradbury said. “It’s looking at the possibility of not buying textbooks, but using the access of technology to drive that instruction as opposed to a textbook driving that instruction.”

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