Give a guy from the country a truck and some open road, and he can drive for miles...
(and that's what I did all the way from Denver, CO to Crownpoint, NM)
I arrived in Crownpoint, NM at 11:00am Monday morning and began to check out the amazing campus of Navajo Technical University. I explored the beautiful campus, wandered from building to building, and finally I made my way over to the Fab Lab (Fabrication Lab) where I was greeted by Mr. Tonga and Mr. Greene, who were instructing the 3D camp. Camp began at 9:00am so I was fashionably late, but I was able to see the lecture in action and then participate in the day’s project of creating a 3D name plate. Working with several students to design our name plates according to the directions given on TinkerCAD was incredible. I saw students completely engaged in this project, fully comprehending the information that was just presented to them! Not only were the instructors helping the students, but the students were helping each other. Half way through the project Mr. Tonga stopped the students and took them over to the 3D printers to show them where their plates would be made and how the machine operates. Although the students were excited about creating something on their own before seeing the machine that would create it… now they were turnt for tuesday tacos. The connection was made. They could see the full process from ground zero to finished product and this really inspired the campers to think outside the box. They all worked to finish their projects before the end of the day and became more creative with their designs.
While the students worked, I had an opportunity to talk to both instructors who explained to me what they were doing at each of their schools in order to offer the best opportunities to their students. Growing up in a school I know the difference between a teacher and a teacher who cares…. And these guys cared. As the day came to a close, Mr. Greene and Mr. Tonga took the last hour to take the students to another a part of the campus to show them what was going on and other programs the University offered, expanding the knowledge of what was out there for the students.
Arriving for the beginning of camp on time, I was excited to see that the camp numbers had risen and that there were more females than males attending the camp! We began the day by going over Monday’s lecture and then getting to see our finished nameplates. After this we jumped right into a hands on project of building a towers in teams of 4 out of straws, rubber bands, marshmallows, and 3D printed connectors. I took part in this project working as the fourth member of the team. Students quickly split up tasks among themselves to create their towers, which all were different in design, yet still met the restrictions given. During the activity other objects were added in (rubber bands) and objects were taken away (tape) making students readjust their team’s original design on the spot. With only 20 minutes left in the project a real twist was thrown in when teams had to switch towers. You could see the wheels turning as teams now decided the best way to build on a design that wasn’t theirs and were unsure of the other team’s thought process. This activity was great in engaging the students, making them think critically on the spot and creatively.
I had the wonderful privilege of eating lunch with Dr. Ben Jones of the Navajo Innovation Lab in the NTU’s cafe and discussing several topics and challenges relevant to the communities. After lunch we returned to the Fab Lab to begin the next project of redesigning wheels for race cars that each student would race. We redesigned the wheels using TinkerCAD and had to eliminate 50% of the materials of the original wheels.
At the close of the day students went to another section of the school (computer Science facility) to learn more about what programs were offered there. I chose to stay behind at the Fab Lab and talk to professor Halliday who gave me an in depth tour of the Fab Lab, its equipment, projects that were taking place and introducing me to the college students still on campus for the summer taking part in projects.
Unfortunately, it was my last day in Crownpoint, but I left pumped and energized to come back by all of the enthusiasm from the students and the passion of the educators. Their energy has kept us motivated as we plan a Town Hall Maker’s meeting for Navajo Nation, and we are so happy to be able to help bring STEM to more students!