FARMINGTON — The pre-engineering and robotics classes at Foster Career and Technical Education Center on Mt. Blue Campus was a hub of activity Thursday, Dec. 6. The activity was not due to anything out of the ordinary. There were no traditional lessons being taught and no tests being given.

Using high-tech equipment students manipulated reality, used computers to design parts, printed their concepts on 3D printers, and created new concepts using old designs. For these students, it was just another day in the classroom.

In one corner of the pre-engineering classroom, Tyson Hill of Mt. Abram was helping Noah Bell of Mt. Blue design pawns for a board game. “I have to create a board game for history class,” said Bell. “Tyson is helping me with game pieces that are representative of the Gilded Age.”

Once the pawns were designed, they would be printed on one of the lab’s 3D printers.

Students at another station were working on redesigning a mechanical clock. Teacher Jake Bogar said the clock was a kit ordered by a Mt. Blue Middle School teacher. The materials included in the kit were not very rugged, so Bogar’s class was asked if they wanted to make a better clock.

In robotics, students were working on a project which will be revealed at an upcoming Regional School Unit 9 board meeting. Whether they were designing parts to be 3D printed, soldering wires, or working on circuitry, students showed genuine interest in the task at hand.

“We do a lot of collaboration with the building construction and robotics students,” said Bogar. “Our ideas come from what students are into.”

A prime example of student interest and collaboration is the augmented reality sandbox located in the pre-engineering room. The sandbox is an interactive experience which allows users to change and redesign topography.

“It’s not virtual reality because the sand is real. It is assisted reality,” explained Bogar.

The sandbox uses a computer program to measure the elevation of the sand. Users can manipulate the sand to form mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes. The sand changes colors to indicate different land masses and elevations, much like a topographical map. Users can also make it rain or snow by covering the sand with their hand.

Regional School Unit 9 Director Doug Dunlap at left creates mountains and valleys in an AR Sandbox Thursday, Dec. 6 while teacher Jake Bogar looks on. The sandbox was built by Foster Career and Technical Education Center students. Students are planning to install a similar sandbox at the future Western Maine Play Museum in Wilton. (Dee Menear/Franklin Journal)

Construction students built the box, while engineering and robotics students worked on virtual aspects of the sandbox. Students are working to design and build a similar exhibit for the future Western Maine Play Museum in Wilton.

The engineering and robotics program are just two of more than a dozen programs offered at Foster CTE. The center primarily serves juniors and seniors from Mt. Blue High School, Spruce Mountain High School, Mt. Abram High School and Rangeley Lakes Regional School.

Eighth grade CTE programs have been integrated into Spruce Mountain Middle School and Mt. Blue Middle School. Two years ago, a satellite program was started at Mt. Abram.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, RSU 9 director Doug Dunlap toured the CTE at Mt. Blue Campus. “It is exciting to see the passion of these students,” he said. “It is important for us to do anything we can to keep students engaged.”

CTE tours are offered on the first Thursday of the month at 9:30 a.m. For more information, or to sign up for a tour, call 778-3562.

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