LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — Seventh grader Patrick Reaser said he’s tired of his back hurting when he bends down to open his locker. He said other students of all heights feel the pain too.
He took the problem to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Think Big Space at J.L. Simpson Middle School and built a solution on a 3D printer.
On Tuesday, he showcased a prototype that would adjust the height of locks during an AWS Think Big Space event. His teacher, Kimberly Poole, said that AWS representatives are even discussing patenting the idea.
The Think Big Space is a collaboration between the Loudoun Education Foundation, Loudoun County Public Schools and Amazon Web Services, where students get hands-on experience in STEM classes. Teachers can also go through professional development, equipping them to educate the tech workforce of tomorrow.
“Everyone here makes you think outside the box. Like, with these 3D printers, you can create anything and help people in the world,” Reaser said. “I hope one day, that this be a thing, and sell it for some money, and to help people.”
Reaser’s project was part of an assignment to address ergonomic issues and repetitive strain injuries with innovative new technologies.
Poole taught English at Simpson for 25 years before becoming a computer science teacher. She said the professional development offered through the Think Big Space was key for her in making that transition.
“Just my own learning and growth has been incredible because of the investment. That Think Big Space experts are invested in helping me learn what I can do to empower my students,” she said.
More than 500 LCPS teachers have used the space for professional development. LCPS Superintendent Aaron Spence said that those opportunities make the division an appealing destination for teachers amid a nationwide teacher shortage.
“Having opportunities to interact with kids in these ways that are really creative and supporting teachers who want to do that work is a key goal for us,” he told DC News Now.
Amazon celebrated the success of the program giving a surprise $25,000 grant to LCPS. It also gave the Loudoun Education Foundation a $25,000 grant to equip classroom teachers with tools and materials for hands-on STEM learning. The program is part of a bigger push to cultivate Northern Virginia’s tech leaders of tomorrow.
“All of us coming together and thinking, ‘Where are the needs of the future? Where are the big industries and opportunities?” he said. “So our students know, ‘When I graduate, there’s something for me to do right here in our community, and I’m going to stay here and I’m going to make our community a better place to live.'”