Design and Engineering

Last fall Sandy Gady from Pacific Middle School was the recipient of the Foundation’s $10,000 Impact Grant for her proposal  Design and Engineering. Below we are sharing Sandy’s proposal and her success story – but she wants everyone to know that “by no means are we as a group done with the grant and its outcome with the girls!

The Proposal

Des Moines Elementary School

Des Moines Elementary School

When I grow up, I want to be … that is the question I ask my Design and Engineering students every year. More often than not, I get two answers, “I want to have a career where I look forward to going to work every day” and “I want to build something”.

I struggled to find a way to write this grant filled with statistics, fancy words and phrases, but I could not find them. My students watched me in my struggle and tried to provide input, when the suggestion came to “Just tell our story. That will be enough.” The story is simple, students want to be given a chance to discover a world they have not have the opportunity to any other way.

Marvisa Elementary School

Marvista Elementary School

Eight years ago when I began building the curriculum for the Design and Engineering program at Pacific, my goal was to build a legacy program where students could explore, create, build and discover something about themselves as a learner. DE is intentionally set up to be a two-year program, where students experience some projects each year, Future City, Balloon Animals, Systems of Toys and Woodworking. Other years alternate with studying Forensic Science, app writing, toothbrush robots and other activities that pique student interest. The program is open to student exploration of fields, careers and hobbies that interest them.

Midway Elementary School

Midway Elementary School

The first year of DE, I had 35 students, only three of which were girls, 1%. Eight years later, there are 167 students, 46 of which are girls, 28%. For my students, I dream the dream for their future, until they can dream for themselves. It is my vision all students have the opportunity to pursue not only a career of their choosing, but to find hobbies and past times they can enjoy for a lifetime.

The vision for this grant goes beyond the immediate funding year. “Maker Faires” are a growing phenomenon that launched in the Bay area in 2006. Maker Faires are “The Greatest Show and Tell on Earth.” Initially designed to be forward-looking showcases for makers who are exploring new forms and new technologies. The Faire is not just for technical fields, rather it features “innovation and experimentation across the spectrum of science, engineering, art, performance and craft.”

This grant would be used to create the first Maker Faire in our district. The goal is twofold:

  1. Introduce girls from Pacific Middle School and our feeder schools to hands-on, building experiences.
  2. Create a replicable format that could be implemented at all other middle and feeder schools in the district and could ultimately be shared with other districts.
North Hill Elementary

North Hill Elementary

This is the first attempt at introducing the “Maker Movement” to Highline Schools on a large-scale. While this initial grant is to involve girls in the first Maker Faire, ultimately I would like to expand this to include all students at Pacific Middle School, our feeder schools and across the district. Teaming with me on this grant would be Conn McQuinn, a community stakeholder and Director of Technology at Puget Sound ESD 121. Conn has been a leader in technology for many years and has been a key person to bringing the world of Maker Faires to our area. Conn has had two children go through the Highline School District and has been supportive of technology for many years.

The district mission statement and strategic plan is toGraduate college, career and citizenship ready, technologically diverse students.” In order to achieve this goal, all students must have equitable access to rigorous, standards based instruction.

Initially the focus will be to increase the number of female students, grades 5 through 8 to STEM experiences. This grant will introduce females from Pacific Middle School and five feeder schools, Des Moines, Midway, Marvista, North Hill, and Parkside to STEM skills through a series of Maker Faires, offered at their home school as well as having a second experience with Design and Engineering at Pacific Middle School.

Parkside Elementary

Parkside Elementary

One goal of the grant would be to spark the interest of girls to explore Engineering and Technology careers, through participation in a Maker Faire setting.  The first experience would focus around the Kelvin Beams and Triangles experience. “Using KELVIN®’s Beams and Triangles™ System, students plan, design, construct, measure and test their products. Construct designed houses, vehicles or other type of structures. In addition, they saw, glue, drill and build their working models from wood beams, triangles, wheels and glue. Advanced students can motorize prototypes with motors and batteries. Learning connections are made through mathematics, science, research, design, construction and manufacturing process.”

The teams would learn to use a variety of hand tools, such as saws, hand drills, hammers, screw drivers, vises and jigs, to cut and drill the material they use to construct their project. Many girls never have the opportunity to use hand tools, having grown up in a digital, virtual world. Given the opportunity to learn how to use these materials and tools to create something from their own imagination, the girls will discover they can be successful and want more.

The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention, rather than provide ready-made knowledge.”
~ Seymour Papert.

The second experience would occur at Pacific Middle School, where all of the girls would come to my Design and Engineering classroom at Pacific Middle School. My classroom is equipped with a variety of hand and power tools, 3D printers, computers, and many other amenities that will excite students to engage in further STEM activities.

Final Report

STEM/Maker movement
Design and Engineering for 5th – 8th grade girls

3D Doodler at Pacific

Using the 3D Doodler at Pacific Middle School

The story is a simple one. We made a difference in the lives of close to 20-25 young folks at each build event. In the spring, we visited our five elementary feeder schools, Marvista, Des Moines, Parkside, Midway and North Hill, with a final event held in my Design and Engineering classroom at Pacific. The final build event at Pacific was packed with close to 80 students, parents and community members. After it was all said and done, we completed just shy of 200 builds.

Two stories (real names are not used):

Kylie is a 6th grader that has been terrified of coming to middle school forever. For years she knew she was different and felt very self-conscious about her appearance and abilities. While able to work in groups, she was always more comfortable working alone. While Kylie is academically successful, socially she struggles to be accepted.

PomPom Pets at Pacific

Marking PomPom Pets at Pacific Middle School

Kylie was in one of the first build events. Pat, a para at the elementary school had shared the successes and experiences her son had encountered while in Design and Engineering at Pacific. Kylie listened to the stories enthusiastically. Throughout the month prior to the build event, Pat paid particular attention to Kylie and encouraged her to attend. Kylie’s parents were supportive, while at the same time, holding their breath their daughter would be accepted.

Their fears were unfounded. During the build event at her school, initially she and her mom were working together. Slowly, mom began to back out of the picture as Kylie found her niche amongst the other builders. Before you knew it, Kylie and Stephanie were hard at work, building their contraption. Throughout the night, Kylie and her entire table were sharing ideas, drilling, pounding, and testing. Kylie’s mom was close to tears when she realized her daughter had finally found an activity she could be successful at and a group of friends that would accept her unconditionally.

The success story continues on the first day of school this year. As I greeted students, welcoming them to Design and Engineering, she was grinning from ear to ear, had an air of confidence and spring in her step. As she approached me, unexpectedly she gave me a hug and said, “I am so excited to be here. I have waited all summer for this day.”

Hannah at Pacific Middle School

Once the hand was completed, Hannah opened and closed her robotic hand, capturing the attention of every student and adult in the room!

The second is the story of Hannah. Hannah is in 4th grade with a sister in 6th, and another a freshman at Raisbeck Aviation High School. Hannah came to her host school with her sisters and dad. She had a grand time using the drill press and vise for the first time. At the end of the night, she was beaming with pride, proudly proclaiming, “I want to be an Engineer when I grow up.” Hannah repeatedly asked, “When is the build event in your room? I can come can’t I?” Hannah could hardly wait for the final event at Pacific.

At the final event she was one of the first to arrive, eyes wide with excitement as we described and modeled each of the maker stations. Each of the builders got to experience building toothbrush robots, wood burning, 3Doodler 3D pens and pom-pom pets.

Hannah, being smaller than the rest, somewhere near four feet tall, got lost in the masses. As others paired up and moved to the stations, Hannah’s shoulders sagged and tears were forming. Hannah looked at Noel, a community member, and said, “Nobody will build with me. I’m too small.” Together, the two grabbed some cardboard, rubber bands, double stick tape and one of the electric cardboard cutters. They toiled for an hour and a half, tracing, cutting, drilling and attaching cardboard joints made by tracing Hannah’s hand. In the end, she and Noel had created an articulated robotic hand.

The girl’s self-confidence grew by leaps and bounds. The fear of a STEM/CTE elective no longer scared them. Enrollment in Design and Engineering in 2016 for girls rose from 20% to 27%. It is predicted the number will grow even greater as the then 5th graders enter Pacific next year.

Once the hand was completed, Hannah opened and closed her robotic hand, capturing the attention of every student and adult in the room. All surrounded her and were oohing and ahhing over the success of her creation, declaring hers was the best invention of the night. Hannah beamed with pride as she was awarded the first medal of the evening.

Hannah took her hand to school the next day to show her teacher and classmates. They too wondered in amazement and declared, “Next year we are going to the build events. We want to make cool stuff too.”

So the big question is, how did the students benefit from the grant?

Wood Burning at Pacific Middle School

Wood Burning at Pacific Middle School

There are many successes we saw event after event as we watched the girls team up with their mom, dad, grandparent, guardian, Design and Engineering mentor, or community stakeholder. Girls using “real tools” to create something from their own imagination and hands using real wood, nails, and glue. The changes in the girls as they gained confidence, made new friends and discovered they really liked “making stuff work” was priceless.

While the girls all gained new skills in using tools and problems solving to make their wood creation move, a more important outcome was the building of self-confidence and camaraderie with current 7th and 8th graders as well as the interactive aspect of asking for and receiving help from community stakeholders.

Wood Working at Pacific Middle School

Wood Working at Pacific Middle School

The girl’s self-confidence grew by leaps and bounds. The fear of a STEM/CTE elective no longer scared them. Enrollment in Design and Engineering in 2016 for girls rose from 20% to 27%. It is predicted the number will grow even greater as the then 5th graders enter Pacific next year.

Two new CTE classes were created, adding 43 students, 21 boys and 22 girls. This new class will focus on App Writing, entrepreneurship and hosting a business fair where students will be able to market their own work.

This grant has provided the foundation on which to build maker events for years to come. The blueprints for success not only at Pacific, but throughout the district and other districts is in place. There are modifications and changes already in our minds as to how to improve the events and cause them to continue to grow. The girls have a vision to be more than they thought possible.

Success at Pacific Middle School!

Success at Pacific Middle School!

Doors have opened, curiosity has been piqued, courage to accomplish what they previously thought impossible, and dreams never dared are being dreamt. The girls had the opportunity to be involved with community leaders and stakeholders that are there to provide them support and encouragement. These community members are no longer frightening to them, rather they are viewed as friends.

Overall, for a first time event, the build events were a huge success. The girls, families and community members are anxiously awaiting this year’s event. DE students will be key contributors to determining the projects and once again, being leaders at the events.


The Impact Grant was created in 2013 as a way to promote innovation in our schools, support the District’s Strategic Plan, and make a meaningful difference in a specific program in Highline Public Schools. This grant is graciously funded in part by Alaska Airlines

The Foundation’s grants (Excel Grants and Impact Grant) are available to all employees of Highline Public Schools. Grant applications are now available online for 2016-17 school year.

www.highlineschoolsfoundation.org/grants
Grant application deadlines:  November 3, 2016
Funded Grants are announced in early December

The Foundation applauds each teacher’s dedication to providing the best possible education for our students!

Since 1999, the Highline Schools Foundation has been supporting innovation and excellence in Highline Public Schools. Our funding priorities focus on programs to improve academic achievement, supporting college and career readiness, grants to teachers for engaging classroom projects, the arts, athletics, and programs that keep students in school and productive. Highline is a district full of need and opportunity. The Highline Schools Foundation is the only non-profit organization dedicated to all schools in our district—our goal is to help as many students as possible be successful!

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