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    Posted: Dec 11 2014 at 7:54am

Posted: 7:00 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014


Hamilton Career Tech project benefits elementary students

By Vivienne Machi

Staff Writer


    Some Hamilton Career Technical Education seniors have chosen to benefit their school district by creating a box of alphabet blocks for every first grade classroom in the district.

    And creating a set of 75 dual-face blocks and a box to carry them in for 39 classrooms is no easy feat, say the students and their teachers, but when you’re doing it for your younger siblings or for a fondly remembered teacher, it makes the job more fun.

    Students in engineering design, carpentry, and art club are each taking responsibility for steps in creating the blocks, which have a letter on one side and a number or math symbol on the other.

It was the students that came up with the idea, says CTE engineering design teacher Mike Smith, and it’s the students who are creating and surveying the blocks’ creation from cutting the blocks out of wood, shaping them, designing the letters, and painting them.

    “Some of the students have siblings in first grade, and a lot of the students had some of those teachers when they were that age, so it’s a very personal project for them,” he said.

    Kathy Christen, language arts teacher for Hamilton High School, has twins in first grade, and served as a liaison between Smith and his students and the first grade teachers.

    “They made a list of how many letters and numbers were needed for each set, then we put them into a program to coordinate which colors to paint them,” he said, explaining how vowels were painted red, for example, so that the students learned to recognize not only the letter itself, but its phonetics.

    “We added plus and minus signs so they could do math too,” Smith said.

    The carpentry students cut the blocks and sand them down, then use a router table to shape the letters and designs into the wood. Those designs were created and sent over to the router table by engineering design students via a computer program. They then go back to the engineering students to inspect the blocks for splinters or any mistakes.

    Once the bare blocks have passed satisfaction levels, they’re ready to be painted, and only after a final inspection are they deemed ready for delivery.

Justin Dawson, 18, is a senior who worked on programming the letter, number, and math function designs for the carpentry students to place onto the blocks, and said he wants to bring a set of blocks to a teacher who was helpful to him in his younger years.

    Matt Strobl, 18, worked on the sanding and finishing of the blocks, and plans to present a set to Brookwood Elementary, where he attended back when it was Cleveland Elementary.

     According to Smith, a standard one-sided letter block would cost about $1.50 each; to purchase similar sets for all of its classrooms, the district could pay up to $5,800. The students’ project cost under $800.

    He called the project a learning opportunity for the students to see how to stage production and learn the order of operations, as well as deal with issues during production, while benefiting the school district.

    “These are real-life scenarios they’re learning to deal with,” he said.

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