Cool Schools: Saraland High School
SARALAND, Ala. —
Local15 Today highlighted the great things happening at Saraland High School as this week’s Cool School! The school may only be about seven years old, but the Spartans are continuing to grow with new spaces and new programs. The engineering students are putting their skills to work to help other students in need. And don’t miss the performance from the Spartan Dance Company!
In the last month, Saraland High School added a really cool new area called the “Maker Space.” It’s an area inside the library, where students have access to any and all kinds of craft supplies, completely free of charge.
The Maker Space takes the pressure off students who may not have the transportation or the finances to buy supplies for their class projects. So the space is stocked with everything from markers, to feathers, to poster board. It even has a 3D printer that can create anything a student can imagine.
“Last week it was definitely in full force with the end of the quarter and students trying to wrap up their projects. So we had a lot of students over in the center making posters and brochures, things like that,” explained Melissa Willard, Library Media Specialist. “It is extremely helpful. And we tell our students that they definitely have no excuses, they have everything they need right here at school to complete their assignments and projects for class.”
The Maker Space was stocked with supplies as a service project by the students National Honor Society, Leo Club and Beta Club.
This year, the Spartans added an entire welding program where they are firing up the blowtorches on campus!
The students are using professional grade equipment and are going through the same training program that’s used at companies like Austal and Ingalls Shipbuilding. They start with industrial safety and work their way up to stick welding, and even up to the top tier of pipe welding.
Welding Instructor Herschell Hill said most of the students joined because they like the sparks, but they are realizing there is a real future in welding. He said the average age of craftspeople are in their 50s, so demand continues to grow as that generation gets closer to retirement.
“They could potentially come out of this program and walk into a $60-70,000 a year job. That’s not unreal at all,” explained Hill. “There’s a demand for craftsmen now, there’s not a supply. The money is only going to get better because there haven’t been young people coming in to this work.”
The Spartan welding students have already been creating projects for both the school and the community. They are working on a set of stairs for the performing arts program, and they have even been commissioned to create a gate for a business in the community.
ENGINEERING FOR SPECIAL NEEDS
Many people think of engineers as building big projects like skyscrapers and roadways, but the engineering students at Saraland High School are learning that sometimes it’s the smallest designs that can have a huge impact.
For Spartan sophomore Faith Hill, getting around campus in her wheelchair hasn’t always been easy.
“She was able to turn around and look both ways, but it was very challenging and it would take a lot of time. So whenever she was backing up, it was causing issues with her not being able to see behind her,” explained Lauren Cunningham, Self-Contained Special Education Teacher.
After scouring stores and searching online, the solution was actually in another classroom.
“It snaps on here and fits in and locks in place and then the mirror just attaches to it,” said 11th grade engineering student Dylan Wiggins, as he showed off a piece his class made to help Hill get around.
The Spartan engineering students took a car mirror, then designed and 3D printed a piece to make it attach to a bendable arm, which can clip right onto Hill’s wheelchair.
“She can adjust this however she needs to, and she loves looking at herself in the mirror from what I heard,” Wiggins joked with Hill.
A smile gratitude on Hill’s face, worth much more than any A+ project.
“Seeing her light up just ecstatic, it was a great experience for all of us,” added Wiggins.
Although Hill isn’t very verbal, she was quick to tell us with an emphatic “yes” that she’s excited about her new mirror.
Working on this project has fueled a passion for engineering for some of the students involved.
“Actually getting a chance to help in real-world applications just gives me a better idea of what I plan to do. I want to be an engineer when I grow up,” explained 11th grade engineering student Jacob Kelly.
It’s also fueled compassion for other classmates.
“They’ve invested more than just building the device, they’ve invested in how she’s learning to use the device. And they’ve invested in her social life as well. So it’s made a big difference,” added Cunningham.
“We see her using it in the hall all the time and its awesome!” said Wiggins.
The engineering students originally started with a project to help a fellow engineering classmate who was temporarily in a wheelchair. But they’ve gone on to create many “fixes” for the special needs students like purse hooks, cup holders and catch-alls that can clip onto walkers.