The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

Project Lead the Way fosters interest in engineering 2010.12.08

Written by David Green.

school.hoffman.jpgBy DAVID GREEN

Morenci Middle School teacher Dan Hoffman says he didn’t have much interest in engineering until last summer. That’s when he took part in a Project Lead the Way training program that focuses on engineering education.

“I went in without any knowledge about engineering,” he said.

In fact, he says he’s been somewhat of a non-technology guy. He was slow to come around to computer usage, and then one year scheduling changes put him in charge of a middle school computer class.

“The best way to learn it is to teach it,” he said. “Saturate yourself with it.”

That’s what happened over the summer during an intensive two-week training program. Classes from 8 to 5. Homework until 11.

“I felt like a college kid again,” he said.

When the program concluded, he was sold on Project Lead the Way (PLTW).

“It’s a good class,” he said. “It’s what we should be teaching kids.”

Filling the gap

PLTW started in New York state in 1998 in an effort to attract more students into college level engineering programs.

The program is described as hands-on, with real-world applications. It helps students understand how the skills they’re learning in the classroom may be applied to everyday life.

The goal is to make mathematics and science relevant, and in the process, Mr. Hoffman says, to get students interested in the field.

It’s no secret that U.S. manufacturing jobs are disappearing.

“If we’re going to get our economy going, we’re going to have to develop something else.”

According to PLTW, two-thirds of America’s economic growth in the 1990s resulted from new technologies, and a shortage of engineers is expected.

“Engineering goes into everything,” Mr. Hoffman said. “It’s really wide ranging and we’re trying to get kids’ eyes open to it.”

Last week GM and Chrysler announced they’ll hire 2,000 engineers in the next two years. In another direction, Mr. Hoffman said, alternative energy projects will require large numbers of engineers.

“I think there’s potential,” he said. “We need to put some serious emphasis on this. If we’re going to compete in the global economy, we have to go beyond manufacturing.”

The class

Mr. Hoffman just started teaching the class in the second trimester. The middle school version of PLTW—known as Gateway to Technology—is designed as a nine-week course. Morenci’s trimesters are 12 weeks long, but two eighth grade classes are meeting every other day.

“I’m not sure how far I’ll get this year,” Mr. Hoffman said. “There’s way more curriculum than you could ever use, so you get to pick and choose from what they offer.”

Students already like the class, he said, but he expects the enjoyment to grow when he introduces them to Autodesk Inventor—a software package used by engineers to design parts and put them together digitally.

In Mr. Hoffman’s summer program, teachers designed playground equipment for a park. There’s a project for students where a dragster is designed, then modified to make it better.

Morenci isn’t alone in adapting PLTW. Lenawee is the first county in Michigan to have all of its schools involved in the program. Mr. Hoffman’s training and the purchase of laptop computers was paid for by a grant.

Mr. Hoffman will return for more training next summer and he expects a high school teacher to join in. The program is designed for fifth grade through high school.

Scheduling is a problem already this year since the program does not take the place of regular science classes.

“It’s real world and I think it’s going to address real world issues,” Mr. Hoffman said.

He also thinks it’s going to capture the interest of many students.

“Some kids aren’t excited by traditional academics,” he said. “If you find something that kids excel at, the success often carries into everything else. I think this will reach some kids where it’s going to turn a light on.”

It’s another alternative, he said, and it’s an important one.

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