Ron Smith is the Engineering and Metal Fabrication teacher at Nestucca High School in Cloverdale, OR.
Complex Concepts & Making the Connection
Ron Smith doesn’t shy away from teaching his students complex concepts. In his classes, he covers topics ranging from vectors and trigonometry, to statics, forces, and velocity. “Some kids in math classes think, ‘where will I ever use this?’ In my class, students apply the knowledge hands-on. They get a good grasp of the real-world applications for the concepts, and learn what engineers do on the job. They love seeing this real-world engineering, and it gets them fired up for going beyond graduating high school.
Something More After High School
“Our community consists of four main trades: dairy, logging, tourism, and fishing. If you don’t own the business, you usually end up working for minimum wage. I want to help my students see that they have more options than just these local trades. In my classes, you have to use a lot of high-end math to design projects that we build. The kids who have that aptitude and a desire to learn usually get into engineering programs at local universities. Many have been very successful and make more money than I do!” laughs Smith, adding, “I’m still trying to convince them to give me a 10% cut!”
Support for Success
Smith has proven to be an inspirational teacher on a number of levels. Not only does he help students grasp complex concepts, he truly cares about their success, and helps students individually to overcome obstacles. “I’m dyslexic, so engineering was somewhat difficult. I understood the concepts, but doing equations would take much longer, because I had to double- and triple-check my work,” explained Smith. “One of my former students is also dyslexic, so we spent time after school going over his work to make sure things looked good. He went on to become a successful engineer, and I’m really proud of him.”
Inventing and Making in less than a Month
“There was a great representative who showed me the Afinia 3D Printer in a brochure, and again at a conference we attended. When I saw it in person, I said, ‘I have to get one of those!’ Being a small school district, we don’t have much funding. I was able to use some leftover funds to buy the printer.
“When I got it in May, I had never used a 3D printer before. But the minute it was set up, I started using it.
I made things that other people had designed that looked cool, but didn’t have much real-world application. After about a month, I started to create my own designs, starting with a gift for the graduating seniors. I made them a keychain fob with their name and graduation year. They loved it!”
Getting Students Going
“I’m very excited to have my students begin using it next semester. Right now, it is in my classroom, but is busy working on a separate project! The timing will be perfect, since much of this semester is focused on our catapult and bridge building competitions. The students have to make at least four rough drafts of the bridge before they go to the competition. The peer pressure there is huge. There is no way my students are walking in underprepared! We want our bridges to reflect the great education students receive at Nestucca.
“Once the competitions wrap up, my engineering class will use Inventor to design something original that they want to build for themselves, then use the Afinia 3D Printer to bring it to life. They have worked on projects in Inventor before, to learn the software, but I think the 3D printer will increase their motivation to create awesome designs. It will be a real product that their classmates get to see, and like I said, my students are competitive! They won’t want classmates to see sub-par prints, and they sure wouldn’t want to take a bad one home.”
3D Printed Glass Insulator Poles
“Right now, the Afinia 3D Printer is working on a project for our Interim Superintendent. When he saw the keychain fobs the printer made, he asked me what else the printer could do. After talking about some deteriorating glass insulator poles he needed fixed, we decided the Afinia could help solve the problem. I took some measurements, designed a replacement post in Inventor, and tested it. It fit into the glass insulator perfectly, on the first try. Now he wants 60 of them!
“I believe that by using 3D printing, he is saving upwards of $20 per post, which is a significant savings. I can really see the printer coming in handy for various projects we work on in my classes, and think it will benefit the community, too.”
The Big Stuff
“In my metal fabrication class, we build big stuff for the community. Recently, we finished a 3,000 gallon liquid manure spreader.
“The students do fantastic work. You can’t tell that the finished product came from a high school. Both myself and my students have high expectations. When they complete a project, we don’t want to hear ‘that’s a heck of a good product for a high school!’ Take ‘high school’ out of there – it is just a straight up good creation, as if it came from a company!
“A lot of the time, we can sell these larger builds to people in the community, which is a wonderful partnership. They get a high-quality product for a good price, and we can put that money back into our program.”
How has the printer been working for you?
“The Afinia 3D Printer has been working amazingly well for me.
There was one time when the nozzle wasn’t feeding well, so I contacted support. They answered my questions and told me what could be affecting the nozzle. I was able to replace the nozzle easily, and I haven’t needed to call support since! They were great, and I find the machine very easy to work on.
“At first I was taken aback at the cost of the [Premium ABS] filament, which is paid for out of the student body account. But after seeing how long it takes to get through spool, I realize that it’s a really good price, and I can make lots of stuff for the price of that filament!”