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Colfax Students Develop Electric Amplifier that Works with MP3 players


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Rocklin, CA- Modeling the innovation and design process, Colfax High School teachers, with support from the Sierra College Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Collaborative, developed curriculum for making an electric amplifier that works with MP3 players.

The project has proven to be a full-scale success with freshmen. Students will demonstrate the results at an Amp-Up Expo on Wednesday, June 5 at 10:15 a.m. at Colfax High School.

The Colfax instructors sought a way for students to complete units in design, electronics, metal, wood and media that culminated in an appealing, memorable and useful project. The goal was to instill 21st Century Skills, promote Career Technical Education (CTE), and introduce STEM careers. Sierra College faculty provided advice and the Sierra STEM Collaborative supplied a vacuum former, plasma cutter and other new technology, as well as supported teachers' externships and professional development.

According to Christian Kinsey, Tech Essentials,  teacher, Colfax students used to make race cars when the introductory technology class was an elective. Once Tech Essentials became required for all freshmen, instructors invented a more universally appealing hands-on project. The new curriculum introduced students to tools in the tech labs, reinforced applied academics and taught problem solving. In addition, the project allowed student customization, encouraged career exploration and appealed to male and female students. 

"Although it was hard to let go of the car project and develop new curriculum, it was a fun process for the four teachers working together," said Kinsey. "We brainstormed to find a project that would inspire students, could be built in the semester, was cost-effective and included elements from all the CTE courses. Most importantly, we wanted to encourage innovation and teach critical thinking skills." 

Students learn software and online tools to manage their projects, develop design skills, and produce documentation such as a parts list and bill of materials. They learn to use 3D drafting to design the sound tube, make a wood mold for vacuum forming the speaker caps out of plastic, solder circuit boards for the sound tubes and fabricate stands out of metal.

With a team, the students design a logo, use the computer numerical control (CNC) machine tool to cut vinyl images for branding, research related STEM education and career paths, develop presentations and demonstrate their electric amplifiers at an "Amp Up Expo." Community representatives give feedback on the final projects at the Expo. Students save the project documentation and support materials in online portfolios that can be shown to prospective employers.

"Every generation has a desire to listen to music," said Kinsey. "Sierra College STEM provided the support to take that idea and develop a fully integrated design technology course that starts high school students off with a powerful experience in design, fabrication and product development." 

The Colfax teachers have linked real world product development with rigorous academics to excite students about the opportunities in design, engineering and manufacturing, explained Carol Pepper-Kittredge, Director, Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT), Sierra College.

"The goal of the Sierra College STEM Collaborative is to support teacher innovation," said Pepper-Kittredge. "At Colfax High School, the teachers have instilled creativity into an academically challenging project that builds technical skills, and teaches communication and teamwork required by employers."

After Pepper-Kittredge reviewed the students' projects, she said, "Students were so proud of what they had created. These students are our nations' future entrepreneurs and innovators." 

About Sierra College STEM Collaborative

The Sierra STEM Collaborative is funded by California Community College Chancellor's Office, to create a pipeline of students interested in technical careers. Students can pursue Welding, Mechatronics, Engineering, Energy Technology and Drafting & Engineering Support at Sierra College. For information, go to www.sierraschoolworks.com or contact Carol Pepper-Kittredge, Sierra College at (916) 660-7801.






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