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Matthew Strine

NOMINEE: Innovation in Education Award
Monesson City School District
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
NOMINEE: Innovation in Education Award
Matthew Strine, STEM Teacher 
Monesson City School District

We can all remember the setting well. Dark room, loud noises, a mess all over the place. Yes, you hit the nail on the head, literally, as it was our middle school woodshop class. While the machines and tools still exist in my workspace, long gone are the days of everyone building one of a handful of options, or completing instructions given with a kit of some sort. These days my 6th Grade Tech Ed class is all about making...making pretty much whatever the kids want. Seeing as how I see each class for only a quarter of the year, I try to focus on software that they will use when they see me again for class in the future, safety tips and best practices for using different machines, and then the one thing that some teachers still struggle with even believing one can teach...creativity! When I arrived at the school in early 2020 this class was not even yet a part of my rotation. Less than two years later we have nine 3D printers that were all secured since my arrival through crowdfunding and grant writing. We use them pretty much daily and even use the cardboard boxes they arrived in as we cut them down for yet another material available to the students on Maker Mondays. Setting students up for success down the road is what I strive for, and I only have forty-five days to do it!

Next, the students move on to 7th and then 8th Grade Tech Ed with me. It is really one class, supported through Project Lead the Way curriculum focusing on Automation and Robotics, that I split up between these two years I have them in class. 7th Grade focuses on engineering, STEM careers and pathways, the history of automation, some more making (of course!), and a passion project where students start to plan out an invention of sorts. In 8th Grade they learn about mechanisms, do a great deal of making once again, and then coding through use of VEX robotics and Robot-C software. A big part of 8th Grade is also talking about the high school courses I offer and giving them a sneak peak of what is available to them! I will admit that on occasion I have reached out to incoming freshmen before they scheduled to highly encourage them to take one of my high school classes. A little persuasion, and certainly a confidence booster, goes a long way!

With my high school courses I basically offer advanced curriculum on things we had already learned. My Introduction to Computer Science course is a step up from Robot-C as we are part of the Amazon Future Engineer Program that I had to interview for and get accepted into with the coding language Python being the focal point. We also spend time making music with code in my old office which I, of course, turned into a music studio through some more crowdfunding and grant writing. As for the Amazon part, we schedule videoconferences with Amazon employees to learn about career options in a variety of fields. I am hoping to offer a second Computer Science course in the near future with plans to add AP Computer Science to the school’s course offerings.

As for the class that takes up the most time any way you slice it, Business and Bots is an advanced level of making at its core, with many soft skills sprinkled throughout! Most middle and high school teachers try to decrease the number of classes they teach, but I have never considered myself like most teachers. Business and Bots is really a three-headed monster. One-third of the class is business and I teach it through having the students run a business. Our school store, HUSTLE, is a self-created 3D print shop and customized t-shirt printing business. Without the money we make off of our customers, we likely would not be able to support the other parts of the class. The second third of the class is basically Battle Bots. In partnership with SWPA Bots IQ, the students learn all about manufacturing and manufacturing careers through industry partnerships, tours, interviews, and more.

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