February 2, 2022

NEWS RELEASE: RHS Mechatronics Students Partner with Dort DHH Class for STEM Project

Students from the Roseville High School Mechatronics class and the DHH (Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing) class at Dort Elementary have teamed up for a unique, collaborative STEM project. 

This collaboration was inspired when Dort principal Mike Zimmer noticed that Mrs. Fochtman’s DHH students were having problems keeping items on their desks while tilting them forward. Zimmer contacted Bob Smitka, Mechatronics teacher at RHS, to see if they could help his students modify their desktops. “Mr. Zimmer said that they wanted help creating something that would improve their classroom experience. Through the use of our 3D computer-aided design and prototyping, 3D printing, laser cutting, and electronic add-ons, we knew we could help make Mrs. Fochtman’s student’s ideas come to life,” Smitka said.

Students had their initial planning meeting on December 14, with RHS Mechatronics students traveling to Dort to visit Fochtman’s classroom. RHS students, with the help of translators, worked with the Dort students on designs for their desks. “My students sat down with the Dort students and their interpreters to interview the students, get their input, and create an engineered design for the students,” Smitka said.

On February 1, D/HH students visited the RHS Mechatronics lab to see the progress on their creations, as well as participate in various STEM activities with the RHS students. Mechatronics students led the Dort kids through various stations in the lab, including laser cutting and engraving, 3D design and printing, STEM tower building, robot cars, circuit programming, and making their own vibrating battle robot with Brush Bots. Fochtman said that the students have been excited to find out what their finished product is going to look like. “This is a good day for them to experience the lab and to actually see the progress being made on their designs.”

Smitka said that his students have been enjoying the opportunity to work with the kids from Dort. “I really think that it puts a personal connection to the projects that the class is working on. My students got excited when they saw the Dort students get excited. I truly think putting hands-on learning and experiences in front of students of all ages helps to foster a love of creativity, making, and design.” RHS Senior Kevin Jackson agreed with his teacher’s sentiments. “We’re trying to build something unique with them, and there’s a lot of trial and error, but it’s a lot of fun. They’re great kids.”