Making the Grade: Hands-on STEM learning with an artful touch

While there’s much talk about the importance of science, technology, engineering and math in preparing students for tomorrow’s careers, Chattahoochee High’s engineering and architecture instructor Gregg Mervich says there’s an important component missing from that acronym.

“It’s the art component – that’s the heart of the design process,” said Mervich, who has been at the Johns Creek school for 12 years. “It’s the artistic bent that draws people in. Here, we focus on STEAM and work on efforts to introduce kids to the art of engineering and technology.”
In Mervich’s hands-on classroom, students get practical experience by working on a range of engineering and architectural projects. The high-tech space is outfitted with 25 “trainers,” work stations where students spend a month learning a specific engineering skill.

“It’s quite challenging to be on top of it all,” said Mervich. “I’ve got electronic and robotic equipment as well as woodworking and welding equipment.”

After students have acquired proficiency in handling the various trainers, they then get to apply their skills to a project that requires collaboration, ingenuity and some of the artful process Mervich encourages.
“I split the class into two student-run companies, and they each get a design brief of about 10 pages that tells them how to make something,” he explained. “Their job is to research all aspects of what has to be done to accomplish this task. They come up with portfolios of reports, drawings, material lists and information about how to do it. They even make PowerPoint presentations that explain everyone’s role in the production process. It’s very real-world.”

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