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Students constructing more than just towers of string, paper & tape


Posted Date: 05/02/2018

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Their project was fitting considering the recent events.

The eighth-grade students at The Joe Barnhart Academy were asked to create towering structures able to support not only a tennis ball but also withstand gale force winds.

Sounds simple?

They could only use newspaper, cardboard, string, tape and popsicle sticks.

Emily Olson, teacher of the Project Lead the Way class, said that the students took this project from design to construction in only a couple of days.

“They are learning about the design process by doing instead of hearing,” she said. “At first they looked at me like this was impossible.”

Then, as they began designing, they figured out that it was possible — not easy — but possible.

“They had to modify their designs as they went,” she said.

For some, this modification was ongoing, even on the day of testing.

Tara Young, one of the students, said, “We each had our own designs but we combined them.”

The day of testing, theirs passed but didn’t survive the hurricane force winds.

Victoria Gonzales suggested that a heavier base might have helped their design.

Young suggested an anchor.

“Apparently we were not allowed to stab it in the ground,” she said with a smile.

This wasn’t their first project.

Their first assignment was to create an orthopedic brace for a child with cerebral palsy.

“It has to restrict downward movement but still allow upward movement,” Olson said.

Students took a variety of approaches as some created boots while others went with a sandal style device.

Again, students were limited on their material options.

Olson said this initial project taught them the importance of the design process which was reiterated during this past week’s tower test.

The Joe Barnhart Academy is a new school within the Beeville school district.

There are about 80 students at the new science, technology, engineering, arts and math focused academy inside Moreno Junior High School.

The learning here is different. Students learn more through projects than traditional lecture.

In fact, each student had to apply for admission with the maximum of 80 admitted this first year.

For Victoria Gonzales, this school is perfect.

“I notice I pay more attention,” she said. “I understand things more.”