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On the Bright Side

January 15, 2013

Earthquake study shakes up class at Laurens classroom

There was a whole lot of shaking going on Monday at Laurens Central School in the name of learning.

Students in the Laurens engineering program were testing their wooden towers on a shake table, to simulate earthquakes. That was part of the student project in the civil and mechanical engineering unit that is coming to a close.

Three wooden structures built by students had a variety of success before the class was over Monday. Testing will continue today.

The course is new this year, Laurens Superintendent Romona Wenck said. The program seeks to address the issue of declining graduates from college science, technology, engineering and math classes. It seeks to attract students at Laurens and other area schools into those disciplines by giving them an opportunity to take accelerated math and science classes and apply their knowledge to engineering-related problems, according to a course outline. Besides the technology modules, students take college-level classes in physics, calculus, history and English.

“We’ve made a commitment as a school district to provide advanced courses,” Wenck said. Some funding was provided by the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency, which has been supportive of programs that promote STEM education, she said.

With six students in the program, and high school science teacher Alton Dunn as the lead instructor, “we would love to have more, but it’s a good start,” she said. It’s similar to a course being offered at ONC BOCES, but since Laurens had a teacher who could provide it in the district, it made more economic sense to provide it locally.

The students are all seniors and all but one is from Laurens. Elijah Coley is a student from the Milford Central School District.

The majority of instruction takes place at the school classroom, which includes a computer lab. Students also participated in a variety of field trips, including SUNY Albany College of NanoScale Science & Engineering in October and Frontier Communications in Norwich in November. This gives them a chance to see a variety of real-life engineering applications, Dunn said. Guest speakers and participation in college-level research are also on the curriculum.

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