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Pet Peeves Inspire Design

Bagage at an Airport

“Don’t you hate it when … ?” Sharon Tomski, who teaches a senior design class at Milwaukee’s Saint Thomas More High School, uses that everyday phrase to inspire her students to invent things. And, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says, it works. For instance, when she asked them, didn’t they just hate it when they arrived at the airport and their luggage was overweight, a group of students cobbled together a suitcase that weighs itself while being packed. When a school custodian said he hated it when he couldn’t mow and trim a lawn simultaneously, another group devised a weed whacker that can be attached to any lawn mower.

The prep school’s pre-engineering classes are a component of its Project Lead the Way program, a national curriculum that offers STEM classes to middle and high schools. Tomski says that even for those student who do not go on to study engineering, the elective can prove beneficial because it teaches them problem-solving skills and perseverance. Meanwhile, a local patent attorney tells the newspaper that in recent years he’s seen a growing number of high schoolers who are interested in patenting their ideas. It is, he says, “simply because of the quality of high school programs out there,” like Tomski’s class at Saint Thomas More. Don’t you love it when good teachers get a bit of recognition?

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