Maker Q&A with School Board Candidates

Posted on Oct 13, 2020


 

Cory Smegal

 

How do you see the new Fab Lab and STEAM building contributing to our school and community?

The expertise and knowledge of our Makers community have been key in helping guide the direction of STEAM education in our district and ensuring our new STEAM building is prepared to house a Fab Lab. This community resource will provide our students with an education appropriate to our changing economy and will give all students K-12 with an alternate activity to sports and performing arts. With Makers support, participation in robotics has exploded in Piedmont with more than 200 students participating this year.

 

What do you think about adding engineering coursework to PHS?

Engineering coursework would be an important addition to our high school curriculum as we build more courses to fit with NGSS standards. It will also be critical to incorporate engineering concepts and practices into all K-12 curriculum. My daughter, who participated in Robotics while at PHS, is a sophomore in college, studying engineering. It would have been amazing for her to have specific engineering coursework at PHS. I would like to see this available for future students.

 

What is an example of a great STEAM project you’ve seen in our classrooms or a Maker event you’d like to see?

It’s been exciting to see a number of project-based activities in all of our schools, largely inspired by our ILSP (Integrated Learning Specialist Programs) that many of our educators have been trained in and are using as a basis to combine different subject matter and collaborate with other teachers. Examples are combinations of art and social studies, activities in elementary schools, science and library research in middle school, and students creating digital stop motion animation to present a group understanding of a science concept in high school. It would also be great to restart the STEAM Expo in elementary schools.

 

What do you think is the role of STEAM education in preparing our children for lives in their chosen fields?

It’s essential no matter what field our children decide to pursue. Our workplaces are changing all the time, and our students need to be prepared to collaborate, create, and be critical thinkers who are acquainted and comfortable with the design process. Information is at their fingertips and no longer needs to be memorized and regurgitated; instead, our students need to learn to determine which information is accurate and factual, how to take information to create and innovate, and gain familiarity with a variety of the exciting new tools they may be using in the future.

 

Do you do any “making” yourself? If not, what is something you’d like to try?

I spent the spring and summer focusing on our vegetable garden. I am fairly new to growing vegetables and as a result over-planted zucchini. With all this zucchini, I went through a Cooks’ Illustrated test kitchen exercise with zucchini bread, soup, and zucchini tots. It was really fun to go through the iterations — what if I add more cinnamon or nutmeg or lemon zest to the bread? How thick should the soup be? How can I make crispy zucchini tots? The harvest is just about complete, but I am now well prepared for next summer.

 

Hari Titan

 

How do you see the new Fab Lab and STEAM building contributing to our school and community?

I promoted STEM education as a focus for improvement back in 2014. My reasoning was that all professions whether STEM or not can benefit from a solid foundation in STEM and PUSD students were already ranking very well in math. In 2016 I supported Measure H1 to fund a STEAM building thinking its prominence would help students realize the future jobs will require these skills, we could revamp the labs, and to help attract science teachers to Piedmont.

I think working with the latest maker technology makes the Fab Lab, fabulous. Periodic donations of new technology will be key to that success.

 

What do you think about adding engineering coursework to PHS?

PUSD has a better variety of electives in high school than many similarly-sized school districts. This is in part due to the large parcel taxes we pay that support the salaries of many teachers we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Adding engineering electives would require more funding for teacher salaries. That could come from increasing the per-student Giving Campaign requested donation amounts, however, that might not work during a pandemic. Alternatively, the school board can choose to hire additional teachers over hiring additional administrators or hire administrators who are required to teach at least 1 new course that students want.

 

What is an example of a great STEAM project you’ve seen in our classrooms or a Maker event you’d like to see?

I believe all STEAM projects are great for the student doing them. Students focus on exactly what interests them most and the creation of the project is organic with collaboration amongst family and friends. I think all participants deserve a blue ribbon for participation and we should focus less on which one was “best”.

Since most events are virtual these days, I would recommend separate YouTube videos for each student’s project and a webpage that links to all of them.

 

What do you think is the role of STEAM education in preparing our children for lives in their chosen fields?

I promoted STEM education as a focus for improvement back in 2014. My reasoning was that all professions whether STEM or not can benefit from a solid foundation in STEM since future jobs will require these skills in a more globalized and educated economy.

I was an at-large board member of the Piedmont Makers group back when STEM was expanded to STEAM. This was a good thing since presentation skills are still very much required for that extra edge in the business world.

 

Do you do any “making” yourself? If not, what is something you’d like to try?

I have obtained many permits from the City of Piedmont to renovate or upgrade things. I get involved in the design, selection of parts, hiring subcontractors, and doing some of the work myself.

My latest permit was for a voluntary seismic retrofit. I utilized a structural engineer to locate where my house needed strengthening. I went to evening classes in San Leandro to learn about retrofits and picked out the parts I needed and did a lot of the work myself. My work passed city inspection and I qualified for a FEMA subsidy. Feel free to ask me about it.

 

Hilary Cooper

 

How do you see the new Fab Lab and STEAM building contributing to our school and community?

I am excited about the Fab Lab and STEAM building. When I was parent club president at PHS, I worked to pass the H1 bond because I felt so strongly that this is the kind of building that an excellent K – 12 district should have. Education is changing and people recognize the value of integrating many disciplines into our students’ learning. I hope that the Fab Lab will be available to students outside of the high school and I hope that the STEAM building with all of its potential will open our students’ eyes to endless areas of studies.

 

What do you think about adding engineering coursework to PHS?

I am very supportive of adding engineering to our curriculum. I believe a new course has been created by one of our science teachers and that it is currently under review by the science department. I hope that it can be offered in 2021. I believe that engineering is entering into a fascinating new era in how it pertains to the life sciences so availing our students of this curriculum is an exciting prospect. I also believe being able to offer engineering courses keeps us on a progressive, 21st-century learning model.

 

What is an example of a great STEAM project you’ve seen in our classrooms or a Maker event you’d like to see?

I still remember Kurt Fleischer demonstrating how to make a buzzer sound using a few wires and an orange when he was talking to the PMS parent club about this new group called the “Makers.” This STEAM project was so creative and totally awesome, he had all of us hooked. Beyond that, I heard about John Lambert’s mask-making project this summer in his garage and I would love that to become a community event. Together, we could produce masks for all of our teachers and staff! Wouldn’t that be cool?

 

What do you think is the role of STEAM education in preparing our children for lives in their chosen fields?

I think the role STEAM education will play will be to provide a strong foundation with amazing breadth and depth of learning. Traditionally, students are taught their subjects in a vacuum and STEAM education does the opposite of that. Incorporating many disciplines into a student’s daily learning will lead to deeper understanding of the material and concepts. Whatever field a student chooses, they will have a foundation in innovation, critical thinking, and developing creative solutions to problems.

 

Do you do any “making” yourself? If not, what is something you’d like to try?

I would probably say I am more into puzzles than making but I do love to take time to be creative. If I could pick one maker project to try, I would definitely want to make the smoothie bike machine that my daughter and I discovered at one of the first Piedmont Makers Faire. We rode a stationary bike and as we peddled, the blender came to life and created a delightful fruit smoothie. There were times during lockdown, as I rode my bike in the garage, that I thought, “Why isn’t there a blender attached to this machine?”

 

Jason Kelly

 

How do you see the new Fab Lab and STEAM building contributing to our school and community?

Piedmont voters’ commitment to funding and providing quality, up-to-date facilities and equipment is one of the keys to making our schools a place where students are set up to succeed. We have a responsibility to use those tax dollars wisely, and the new high school STEAM building and Fab Lab are good investments. I know that the Makers have been instrumental in helping to plan and fund the Fab Lab, and this kind of parent partnership is critical to our schools’ success.

 

What do you think about adding engineering coursework to PHS?

I’m an advocate for offering the broadest spectrum of courses that we possibly can, including engineering. Through a wide variety of classes and extracurricular activities, we aim to help kids to explore and pursue interests that may open up new paths for their lives after graduation. The more opportunities we give kids to try something new—or to try something old once again—the more ways they will find to succeed in the world.

 

What is an example of a great STEAM project you’ve seen in our classrooms or a Maker event you’d like to see?

I think it’s fantastic that the 6th grade elective wheel class includes a makers unit. Every student has a chance to try new skills and do some hands-on work. I’ve seen my own kids design and build projects that give them a sense of accomplishment that is sometimes not present in other types of learning.

 

What do you think is the role of STEAM education in preparing our children for lives in their chosen fields?

STEAM education leads directly to many important and rewarding careers, and it also teaches important skills for students who may pursue careers in other fields. Critical thinking, planning, experimentation, and the ability to manage and complete projects are all critical skills that STEAM education helps build and reinforce.

 

Do you do any “making” yourself? If not, what is something you’d like to try?

Yes, I design my own patterns and sew clothes. I’ve been doing that for years and always enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to turn two-dimensional fabric into a well-constructed three-dimensional garment. People who don’t sew sometimes don’t realize the amount of planning and experimentation that goes into the process.

 

Veronica Anderson Thigpen

 

How do you see the new Fab Lab and STEAM building contributing to our school and community?

It’s exciting to see the STEAM building nearly complete and outfitted with a fabrication lab. These facilities are spaces where our students will gain knowledge and expertise that will be invaluable in the future job market. They will have opportunities to use technology and machinery to innovate and create. My daughter was skeptical the first time I took her to a maker’s fair, but she quickly found activities that captured her interest when we stopped by the virtual reality tent and the soldering station. Since then, she’s enjoyed projects in computer coding class, like creating her own escape room game.

 

What do you think about adding engineering coursework to PHS?

I’d like to see engineering coursework added to the PHS curriculum. As schools move toward addressing Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), learning how to identify and define problems and then working to design solutions for them is key. These skills can be built across all grade levels as outlined in the California Science Framework.

 

What is an example of a great STEAM project you’ve seen in our classrooms or a Maker event you’d like to see?

There are a lot of creative STEAM projects happening inside and outside classrooms. Recently on social media, the Makers shared an idea to construct solar ovens using pizza boxes, aluminum foil, duct tape and other easy-to-find household materials. Every year in freshman biology class, students make bread for a unit on fermentation—an activity that transfers easily this year with distance learning. I’d like to see STEAM events in schools like science fairs or expos.

 

What do you think is the role of STEAM education in preparing our children for lives in their chosen fields?

STEAM education is an important tool for teaching 21st-century learning skills such as thinking critically, collaborating with teams, vetting credible information, and creative problem-solving. Having opportunities to learn these skills and practice using them in school lays the groundwork for competencies our students will be expected to have in the workplace, particularly sectors of the economy that are expected to grow the most. STEAM education also cultivates creative leadership by encouraging students to draw insights from information, to look at something as it currently exists and envision something new.

 

Do you do any “making” yourself? If not, what is something you’d like to try?

Growing up, my grandmother taught me how to knit, sew and crochet. In high school, I made both of my prom dresses and when my daughter was six, I crocheted a “rainbow dress” for her. In college, I took a metal sculpture class and learned a bit about welding. Something I would like to try is making jewelry.