BOCES ‘TEAMS’ up with Hurleyville Maker’s Lab

by Amanda Loviza

HURLEYVILLE – A new BOCES program is pulling students from across the county into the Hurleyville Maker’s Lab and helping them learn 21st century skills to solve practical problems.
The TEAMS (Technology Engineering Arts Math Science) Challenge program was created at Sullivan County BOCES last year, after school superintendents visited the maker’s lab. Seven teams from six districts signed on to participate in the challenge, where students have chosen a problem in their school they would like to solve, and then utilize the resources of the maker’s lab to help them create solutions to those problems. The teams’ projects range from building a robot that will carry books for a student on crutches, to syncing announcements onto cafeteria TV screens, to building a garden shed. Each team had the freedom to identify any problem at their school, and design a solution for it, said Denise Sullivan, community liaison for the Maker’s Lab.
“I like that these challenges were vague and they get to bring them to life,” Ms. Sullivan said.

Hurleyville Maker’s Lab Director Mark McNamara, center, teaches new software to students during one of the TEAMS Challenge days at the maker’s lab. TEAMS Challenge is a BOCES program in which middle and high school students from six different school districts are competing to design creative solutions to problems within their schools. PHOTO BY AMANDA LOVIZA

The teams started visiting the Maker’s Lab in January to get lessons from the lab’s director, Mark McNamara in laser cutting, 3-D printing, using the CNC router, and software called SketchUp. This program has opened students’ eyes to a world of possibilities in what the machines at the Maker’s Lab can do, Mr. McNamara said.
“It gets them out into the community and it exposes them to tools and equipment they won’t see, even in shop class,” Mr. McNamara said.
The Maker’s Lab has been phenomenal to work with, TEAMS program facilitator Carole Diehl said, and students have learned to use some technology that they had never seen before.
“The kids have been great, they have been really watching, they’re really interested,” Ms. Diehl said.
Bringing the projects to life has not come without stumbling blocks. The Monticello High School team had to revamp their project when they found out their idea to make cafeteria trays out of melted-down plastic would not meet food-grade plastic standards. Every team, but especially those with outdoor projects, was slowed down by excessive snow days.
The program will culminate with a public presentation of the students’ projects on Saturday, June 3, at the Hurleyville Arts Centre, Ms. Sullivan said. Judges will assess the teams based on their inventions, their problem solving skills and their presentation skills. The event will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will be a great day not only for the students to show off their accomplishments, Ms. Sullivan said, but also for Hurleyville to welcome families from across the county to see the community.