STEMmersion 2024 - Thank you!

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Racer3770

Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2014
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279
Location
Dayton, Ohio
I wanted to post an update after our last day of school regarding a very special project that many of you helped me out with. In this post I asked for donations of pen blanks, kits, and other items to help out with a special ten day class that our school calls "STEMmersion". During STEMmersion, each teacher picks a subject that they are passionate about and students choose a course they are interested in. We have the student all day long for the ten day period, which allows us as teachers to really dive deep into a craft. This is my third year teaching pen making.

As a result of your generosity, 25 brand new turners in grades 6-11 had over 1,000 different pen blanks to choose from! Each made between 4-12 pens of all different kits and kinds.

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The first day of the class was all about getting to know each other and figuring out how to safely use a lathe. I gave several demos about how lathes work and each student had to pass a safety test in order to use the machinery. After getting a 100% on their test, students made practice cuts using HSS tools on pieces of wood. I taught the students the ABC's (Anchor, Bevel, Cut) and showed them what a good cut looks like. They got hands on with the lathes immediately and we glued up their first wood slimline kits and acrylic rollerball kits on the afternoon of the first day.

As the class moved along, I showed students my sanding technique and we talked about different methods that others might use. On day 2, students finished their first ever pen with a ton of pride. That's always a cool moment!

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We continued the class on days 3 and 4 talking about different kinds of acrylic and the ins and outs of applying a good finish to acrylic blanks. We wet sanded and used zona paper for our class. I also was able to teach a short class on resin casting with Alumilite resin. I did a demonstration of the techniques I use to make my blanks and each student was able to choose their colors and cast their own pen blank with some help. Some even 3D printed a gisi style mold using our school's 3D printer and we filled those molds with resin. They later used their own blanks to make a fountain pen. I brought in a bunch of different inks and papers for them to try and I showed them how to fill, clean, and write with a fountain pen.

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Another cool aspect of the STEMmersion is my partnership with my local polymer clay guild. I contacted them via email (site unseen) last year and they turned out to be the nicest people ever! They came back this year and taught students all about the principles of polymer clay. Students learned different caning techniques like jelly rolls, bullseyes, checkerboards, and more. They created veneers that initially went onto bic pens and then a different design that eventually went on a long clicker ballpoint kit. They facilitated three small groups of five students each for about an hour and a half each day to teach these techniques. Very thankful for their partnership and expertise!

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My school has a laser engraver that my teaching partner was familiar with, so many of our students experimented with engraving their pens too! Many put their name on them and some sort of simple design. Star wars themes were popular.

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I had a few students that were taking the course for the 2nd time because they wanted to make more pens. To keep things interesting for them, I brought in some of my stabilizing equipment and encouraged them to take notes on what produces the best color and patterns. I'm loosely familiar with stabilizing, so this was truly an independent project for them.

By far, my favorite part of this experience was something new that we tried this year. The "academic" part of this course (for lack of a better word) has always been to design a brand new pen kit that's never been seen before. In the past, students have sketched an exploded view of these kits designs and we always said "boy wouldn't this be cool" and left it at that… This year, with the help of my teaching partner who is an absolute wizard in all things computer science and engineering, we were able to make those kit ideas come to life! We partnered with the research arm of a local university who allowed us to tour their advanced manufacturing facility and to use their Powder Bed Fusion (DMLM) metal 3D printers! Students had the opportunity to create CAD drawings and our engineering partners offered a full design review at their nice facility. Then they made three of the new kits happen! Students created a new baseball, chicken, and pen(cil) themed kits! We used slimline tubes and transmissions for the guts of the pen and they were able to press fit their metal 3D printed parts together on the last day of the course.

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At the end of the course, we debriefed with students about their experience. I created a pamphlet of resources that they would need if they were going to start turning on their own. Nearly half the group raised their hand and said they were seriously considering purchasing a lathe to start turning on their own. A huge success! Thank you all so much for your help. This community has supported this project over the past three years in a big way and none of it would be possible without you. Thank you!

James Smith
 
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This is so cool! I'm glad that it was a success for you again this year. Thank you for showing this to all the kids. I hope they were fighting for space in this class.

Can you post a photo of the chicken design? My son and I were looking at this post and would love to see it.
 
James, thank you for sharing the details and pictures. It is great that you are providing these young people with the exposure and opportunity to enjoy our craft!
 
This is so cool! I'm glad that it was a success for you again this year. Thank you for showing this to all the kids. I hope they were fighting for space in this class.

Can you post a photo of the chicken design? My son and I were looking at this post and would love to see it.
I just now realized that I doubled up one of the designs in my original post… oops!

Here's the chicken pen… complete with a beak section, feather shaped clip design, and egg finial.
 

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This is an amazing program! The kids are super lucky to have such a motivated teacher. To potentially help with this program for the coming years, you might apply to the American Association of Woodturners (AAW) who run a pretty aggressive grant program that focuses on exposing kids in school to working on a lathe. These grants can be anything from funding to payment for equipment to assist you in your coursework. You can find more on this here Grant Info .

Nice work!!
 
This is an amazing program! The kids are super lucky to have such a motivated teacher. To potentially help with this program for the coming years, you might apply to the American Association of Woodturners (AAW) who run a pretty aggressive grant program that focuses on exposing kids in school to working on a lathe. These grants can be anything from funding to payment for equipment to assist you in your coursework. You can find more on this here Grant Info .

Nice work!!
I'll definitely look into this. Thanks for the info!
 
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