It takes the average adult two minutes to cook one hot pocket. It takes the average Washington Middle School student two minutes to print a completely unique, laser-engraved item of their choice.
Courtesy of a grant by the Riverboat Foundation, industrial technology teacher Dave McLaughlin was able to purchase a laster-engraving printer for student use. McLaughlin said the high school has a similar printer but it was important for him to get one for the middle-schoolers because he wanted his students to have the same opportunity.
“It’s just like a regular ink printer, but with laser engraving,” he said. “They can do photos and they can do all sorts of different things.”
The process begins on the computer when the students create their name, a logo or even a cartoon character. Then they set the medium of their choice -- wood, Plexiglas, one student has even engraved a baseball -- into the printer. Within two minutes the design is printed on the object and ready to go.
He said the materials they use to print are donated by a local flooring guy who provides the students with scrap pieces.
McLaughlin said the best part of the projects is that everyone works together. He said he’s always available to answer questions students may have, but usually they consult each other. Bringing new technology into the classroom is important to McLaughlin, who says technology will only keep evolving and by getting the kids involved at a young age, it gets them thinking about what they can do in their future as they transition into the next academic year.
Eighth-grader Anna Harland recently transferred in from Ottumwa and had never worked with a laser printer before. She said she enjoys creating things she can take home and show what she’s made.
In addition to the laser printer, the middle school also has a 3D printer where students can design objects and have them printed within a few hours. Taylor Johnson, an eighth-grader, spent the last week and a half designing a shelf. She is not currently enrolled in any of the industrial tech classes, but spends her study hall in the lab designing things because it boosts her confidence to be able to create something out of an idea she’s come up with.
“It gives me a good challenge and I just always get a sense of accomplishment when something good comes out like this,” she said. “It’s just really cool to make something, especially if it’s a really complex design because you just get a sense of accomplishment when you create something and it works.”
McLaughlin said that no matter if the students are printing, designing or in his classes or not, he just wants them to have a good time and experience something new they would not otherwise have the opportunity to try.
“I try to get the kids ready here for what’s available at the high school,” he said, adding that similar classes are available at the high school for interested students. “It’s basically here’s some options, and if it’s something you like, learn a little bit more about it; eventually it can end up as a career or just a hobby.”