PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- A dozen art and graphic design teachers from area high schools attended a two-day workshop at Picatinny Arsenal called "Art Classes of Tomorrow," part of an ongoing educational outreach program to promote education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The workshop was not only free to the teachers, but they also received free MakerBot 3-D printers to take back to their schools to share with their students. The event on Jan. 30-31 was sponsored by the widely recognized STEM program at Picatinny Arsenal, the home in northern New Jersey of one of the U.S. Army's premiere research and development facilities.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center employs hundreds of scientists and engineers, who are engaged in a wide range of activities to provide service members with capabilities needed for a strong national defense.
The workshop, now it its sixth year, has provided advanced technical instruction to more than 100 educators from local schools. In addition to 3-D printing, the workshop also offered instruction on computer aided design (CAD). If necessary, Picatinny Arsenal also covers the cost of any substitute teachers needed during the two days of instruction.
"I wanted to attend this because as a technology teacher I love STEM," said Forte Brookins, a technology instructor at SPARK Academy in Newark.
"I actually introduced a lot of my scholars to coding robots two years ago, so now 3-D printing is like the next best thing in engineering. They get to see a whole lot of things that are being created with their own ideas, so me being an innovative type of person, I just love to expose my scholars to more things."
The unique workshop agenda is created by educators for educators, said Shahram Dabiri, the Armaments Center Picatinny STEM Manager. "As our selected teachers' proficiency increases, the agenda will be adjusted to meet their educational needs, giving these selected teachers the tools to introduce their students who would otherwise not have exposure to 3-D printing and advanced CAD programs."
For several teachers, the workshop was a way to keep pace with evolving technology that can be applied to their field of instruction.
"I have a big interest in trying new things in the arts, and instilling that also in my students," said Sherry Carnegie, an art teacher at Lenape Valley Regional High School.
"I have done some research, and 3-D printing seems to be really developing in the arts, not only at the high school and college level and all different levels. I felt I needed to share that with my students at some point and in some way.
"There are a lot of artists out there that I've seen who are already doing this, and coming up with all different kinds of concepts. I feel that I want my students to be a part of that, too."
Cynthia Hamilton, a visual arts instructor at Byram Intermediate School, said new technology can help to inject variety into the classroom.
"I'm always interested in finding out what's happening in the art world and new products that have come out, and new ways that I can incorporate things into my classroom, just to liven it up and learn new techniques," she said.
Although new technology can stimulate interest among students, the teachers said technology wouldn't necessarily replace traditional art instruction or techniques.
"I think they should grasp both, and maybe even combine them," said Carnegie. "I think that the technology offers a new medium for them to work with, to bring out new ideas that they may not be able to do in any other way. So that's why I really want to embrace this new technology and bring it to the classroom."
Hamilton said the use of advanced technology can benefit students by giving them insight into how the same art object can be created in two different way, with existing methods and with new technology.
"As a traditional arts teacher, I would definitely have them do it the traditional way first, say carving, and then I would take that same theory and let them apply it to the digital world, and see which one they like best, and see the pros and cons of both."
Dabiri said introducing new technology into the classroom can also serve broader objectives over time.
"Picatinny needs to hold events like this, such that we train our local educators to know what the latest and greatest technology is, especially since the price point has dropped to an affordable level," Dabiri explained. "This way, when they go back onto their classrooms, and they train the next generation of engineers and scientists, they (students) are better aware of what's in the pipeline for when they come to work here, if they do decide to come work with us."