Art and science a good mix at Reynoldsburg High School

By Elizabeth Goussetis

Staff Writer

Reynoldsburg High School senior Tommy Coley holds a puzzle designed by students and cut in the Fab Lab (short for fabrication laboratory).
Reynoldsburg High School senior Tommy Coley holds a puzzle designed by students and cut in the Fab Lab (short for fabrication laboratory).

Thomie Timmons is an art teacher at a school full of kids who love science and math. One thing working in his favor is that all the cool machines are in his classroom.

With 3-D printers, a vinyl cutter, and a large, jigsaw-like machine called a ShopBot, students can create virtually anything they can imagine. Timmons directs the Battelle Fab Lab at Reynoldsburg High School’s eSTEM academy, one of four career-track academies students select based on academic interest.

“Most of the kids in this academy are math and science geeks, and art is like their least favorite subject,” Timmons said. “I try to teach art in terms of design, so instead of teaching Pablo Picasso, I teach Raymond Loewy, the father of American industrial design.”

Art and engineering go together nicely it turns out. The Fab Lab is nestled within the Summit Road campus school library, which has been reimagined as the Design and Creativity Center. Timmons works alongside an English teacher from the arts-focused Encore academy, which shares the building with eSTEM. Students use the center for everything from building robots to designing sets for theater performances to building furniture and producing television news segments.

Math and science are important in the type of art going on at the Fab Lab, where students can learn to use industry standard software programs like SolidWorks. Timmons recalled watching a student put together a prototype for a two-sided sign with a triangular piece supporting it. Timmons eyeballed the interlocking pieces of the design and asked if he was sure the triangular piece would fit. The student replied, “If my trigonometry’s right, it will fit.”

Student interns work with Timmons during their free periods to design and produce projects for the school, such as the signage in the high school’s two campuses.

The Fab Lab was built with philanthropic support from Battelle Memorial Institute and the Ohio STEM Learning Network. The school has agreed to serve as a learning lab for other STEM schools interested in doing similar projects.

The idea of a Fab Lab started at MIT, when the school decided to provide the latest equipment so student entrepreneurs and inventors could tinker with designs they otherwise wouldn’t have the tools to build.

This year FabLab students were invited to serve as interns at the Columbus College of Art and Design, where an interdisciplinary class will be designing the interior of an airstream trailer.

“When it’s done, Airstream is going to take it and go on tour,” said Tommy Coley, an eSTEM senior who works in the FabLab and is one of the students who will be interns at CCAD. He will attend The Ohio State University next year to study engineering.

Timmons’ room is filled with projects that came from the imagination of his students. The students created the prototype and built a desk that holds the computers. Leaning against the wall are the beginnings of a robot the robotics team is building. A table shaped like a guitar sits next to a rocking chair that can be flipped upside down as a regular chair. There’s a chess set made with a 3D printer.

Timmons said the Fab Lab provides teachers the ability to do project-based lessons that make textbook material real to students.

“Science teachers come in here and they’re building avian habitats,” Timmons said, pointing to a giant birdhouse designed for the nesting needs of a wood duck. “When I was in school we made birdhouses and everyone did the same one.”

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