May 25, 2018
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High school students put geometry, design lessons to use on ramp for elderly woman

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A group of Old Town High School freshmen geometry students honed their hammer skills on Wednesday as they helped bring to life a construction project that will help an elderly Glenburn woman regain her independence.

The high schoolers had been collaborating since mid-February with students from Orono High School and the Bangor United Technologies Center on a ramp that was supposed to be added to a three-bedroom home being built by UTC students. But last week, the instructors behind the project learned that the woman would need handicap access to her home, so they repurposed the ramp to suit her needs.

The 85-year-old client broke her hip while doing yard work earlier in the year and required surgery to repair the damage, according to Old Town High School math teacher Cynthia Blanchard. The woman returns home from rehabilitation this week, and the ramp will be installed Friday, giving her easier access to the front door of her home.

The Old Town students handled the geometric aspects of the project, figuring out the angle and length of the ramp by putting into practice the theorems and formulas they learn in class. They passed the numbers and a sketch on to architectural drawing students at Orono High School, who created computer schematics using those dimensions, according to Blanchard.

Students at UTC figured out what materials were needed and led the construction of the ramp Wednesday. Because of their experience, they were left in charge of operating the power tools, while the Old Town freshmen used hammers.

“While the UTC students have been doing this kind of construction all year, a lot of my students might have never swung a hammer before,” Blanchard said Wednesday as her students drove nails.

The nine Old Town students involved in the project unanimously agreed that the project was a good way to put their knowledge into practice and make learning more fun.

“It’s a lot more fun than being in the classroom,” said Meghan Ellingwood, 14. Her classmates nodded in agreement, but then turned to Blanchard and added, “No offense.”

The ramp project is mostly funded by a LEARN grant through the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, which also is involved in similar projects at schools on the midcoast, according to Irene Haskins of the alliance, who was on hand to document the students’ work.

Lucas Sockbeson, a 17-year-old UTC student from Indian Island, said the project was a good opportunity to help the geometry students apply what they have learned to the real world, while building something that will make a recovering woman’s life easier.

“We’re just happy to be able to help someone,” Sockbeson said.

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