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Bridges Makers Place connects students to creative thinking


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  • Michelle Reese/Higley Unified School District

Aaron Troxel, A Father Of Three Children, Is A Mechanical Engineer Who Volunteers His Time To Help Students Through The Engineering Design Process. Photo Courtesy Higley Unified School District

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” Albert Einstein

At Bridges Elementary School in Gilbert, students have a place of their own to think, make, play, learn and create. It is called Makers Place.

In a room filled with materials for building, drawing, constructing, experimenting, and assembling, students can design and put those designs to the test. The room is open every morning for about 25 minutes.

It all starts with a challenge.

Each week, a new challenge is posted on the white board. Students have one week to complete it. In a recent week, students were tasked with building a tower using nothing but newspaper and a 12” piece of tape. The tower had to hold the weight of a small teddy bear.

“I think it’s pretty nice that you get to construct a problem. My favorite project so far was designing and making a boat that could carry and support things. It was a really big challenge! My boat wasn’t able to carry anything, but at least it was big enough that it could almost float!” said Elian Hernandez, a fifth-grade student.

Aaron Troxel, a father of three children, is a mechanical engineer who volunteers his time to help students through the engineering design process determining the problem, imagining a solution, planning the design of the solution, creating a physical representation of the solution, and searching for improvement opportunities throughout the process.

Bridges Makers Place connects students to creative thinking aaron.troxell.edit_-300x200

Aaron Troxel, a father of three children, is a mechanical engineer who volunteers his time to help students through the engineering design process. Photo courtesy Higley Unified School District

“Volunteering here at the school comes naturally to me. I really enjoy helping people, watching kids learn and seeing how their world expands as they open their eyes to new ideas. It is very exciting. I want to help kids see that, no matter what your age is, you can be a maker,” he said.

Materials are donated or purchased with donated funds. Makers Place is open 7:45 a.m. to the start of the school day at 8:05 a.m.

Future projects include work with 3D printers and, perhaps, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) club.

“At Bridges, we believe in equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the ever-changing 21st century workplace. Our Makers Place is an integral component of our vision, and I’m excited to see the impact this has on our students for years to come. Sunni Braaksma, our sixth-grade ELA teacher and a former engineer, has done a wonderful job of providing a meaningful experience for our kids each morning,” said Principal Jeff Beickel.

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