News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, July 3, 2014
New IDEA Center at BHCS fueled by $20,000 in grants and funding
Will transform library to media/technology center

by Anne Berleant

Imagine+Design+Explore+Achieve equals IDEA, the name of a new media and technology center to be unveiled at Blue Hill Consolidated School in September. The old school library will exist no longer.

The goal is to further boost STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum at the elementary school through a media and technology center that merges books, computers and newly acquired technology.

“What’s exciting is that we’re likely to be the first school in the area to have anything like this,” Matt Jurick, technology coordinator, said in a recent telephone call. “It’s going to be like a 21st century workshop.”

The $20,000 needed to renovate and equip the center got a $5,000 boost from the Perloff Family Foundation, which gives “a lot of STEM-based grants in Maine,” Jurick said. “I wrote [Dave Perloff] a letter, he came up [to the school] and we went from there.”

Perloff asked that the school board show its support by matching his donation, and the board approved spending $5,000 of 2013-14 contingency money on June 26. Perloff also helped the school receive $2,500 from Maine Community Foundation and $2,500 from Maine Space Grants Consortium. A BEEM (Blue Hill Educational Enrichment Monies) grant provided the final $5,000.

The IDEA center will have digital soldering stations; a CNC machine, used in manufacturing to control machine tools with computers; design tables and stations; a vinyl cutter; hand tools and supplies; and the computers from the existing tech lab.

The IDEA curriculum will have students not only learn how to use the tools to create projects, but also write final reports, a requirement that found favor with board members.

“This is fantastic,” said Sean Walsh.

Jurick is modeling the technology part of the center after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology STAB Academy, where he is taking graduate courses through Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

A typical student project could be creating animotric puppets, as a BHCS parent and technology instructor at Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School, is doing through the same MIT program, Jurick said.

Students would create the puppet parts, computer-design the circuit board that will move the parts, then create a printed circuit board using the CNC machine. Next, using the soldering station, students could affix the individual parts of the circuit board, including a USB connector, and hook the circuit board into the computer for programming.

Another project could be creating design molds using the 3-D printer the school acquired through a BEEM grant last year and then casting the parts.

Tracy Gandy, the new school librarian, is Jurick’s teaching partner, helping to create a project-based curriculum, which will include working with traditional woodworking and hand tools.

“The library will be called the media center,” Jurick said. “[Gandy] is renovating that area to be more 21st century….We’re trying to equip the space for as many options as possible.”

While he and Gandy are busy working to ready the IDEA Center for the new school year, Jurick is also looking into the future.

He’d like to add a laser cutter as “the final tool in our tool kit,” and plans to raise funds for it next year. The price tag? Another $20,000.

But for now, students and parents will be able to see the new center, minus a laser cutter, during the school picnic on September 4. Classes will begin in the IDEA Center the following week.