Joilet High School's new Trotec Speedy 100 laser engraver is turning out to be kind of a big deal. It has opened up a new world of educational opportunities, and challenged students to push the boundaries of how they think about drafting and design. In only 6 months, the students have shown an impressive aptitude for using the laser, and have created advanced applications that demonstrate new skills in design and problem solving that will serve them well in their future careers.
STEM teacher teacher Dale West says the laser has not only created tremendous hype and excitement within the student body, but is helping him get students interested in STEM careers and view them as a viable option for their future.
"The Trotec Laser is a piece of technology that has changed the dynamic of my various drafting, engineering, and architecture classes," West explains. "In the classroom, my students are changing the way they think when it comes to design. The laser allows them to produce different products with various types of materials. This opens a whole new realm for them because prior to getting the machine they were constrained to certain materials for their projects with some of the additive machines we have."
West says his students are also developing problem solving and critical thinking skills when using the laser cutter. They are now exploring ways we can integrate this machine with other technologies we have in the room.
Located about an hour and a half southwest of Chicago, Illinois, Joliet Central High School consists of a diverse population of more than 3,100 students, and is comprised of a Freshman Academy and five rigorous Career Academies designed to give students a head start on their post-secondary pathway by providing career-themed content aligned to academic standards and college/career readiness goals. The academies include the JTHS Career Academies of Health and Medicine; Arts and Communication; Business Management and Information Systems (BMIS); Human Services; and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) academy, which is where students use the Trotec Speedy 100.
Students have worked on a number of interesting projects that include acrylic cutting for LED signage, engraving on various materials, and projects that integrate technologies such as CAD and 3D printing.
Student Greg Honiotes says that learning how to use a laser cutter has changed the way he visualizes and creates things.
"It has vastly increased my creativity and knowledge of the STEM field. I am still amazed at the things I can create now that I have access to this technology," says Honiotes.
During the process of cultivating skills for their future careers, students have also used the laser to help the staff with some practical tasks, such as signs and personalized items for clubs and activities -- giving the laser some practical value as well.
"Overall, I am very happy with the Trotec laser cutter, but I do have to say that I would already like to upgrade. It would be awesome if we could start to integrate metal materials into our projects with the laser cutter," says West. "It has provided my students with priceless experiences and lessons they will take with them after they leave my classroom."