For a group of students at Jordan High School, a broken drone on a desk is all it takes to cause a buzz of excitement and distraction.
Their passion is to make things, like the Jeopardy-style buzzer with LED lights and 99.99 percent accuracy they made for their English teacher and a host of other computer programs and robots they’ve tinkered with since childhood. They dream of creating liquid superconductors and sending satellites into space, but until recently, their opportunities to learn about such things at school were limited.
That’s why Boyd Christiansen, a junior at Jordan High, asked his mathematics teacher, Cameo Lutz, to help him form an after school “makers” club. Through Lutz, Christiansen applied for — and received — a Canyons Education Foundation Innovation Grant for $8,668 to pay for technology and robotics materials the students could use. Then, after the 16 year old and his friends generated so much interest in the makers club they sometimes met past midnight to accommodate everyone’s schedules, Jordan Principal Tom Sherwood decided to turn the project into a class: the Maker Collective. Christiansen and his friends are the teachers; Lutz is an advisor.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever had kids that were this self-motivated before, to seek after a learning experience like they have,” Sherwood said of the group. “It’s an altruistic approach to expanding the collective knowledge of our community, and it’s fantastic. It’s almost like the foundation of what schools should really be, where students are pursuing their passions in a meaningful way and helping each other gain understanding.”
Sherwood directed some of the school’s resources toward supporting the class, which had space for 24 students, even though more than 30 applied to participate. Students who weren’t admitted into the class can attend the after school program, where members of the Maker Collective will share what they have learned.
Christiansen’s application to receive a Canyons Education Foundation Innovation Grant was his first attempt to obtain funding for a project. The Foundation distributed $113,000 in grants in November to 25 teachers who proposed innovative and enriching ideas to support excellence in their classrooms. The grants are made possible by donations from members of the community who wish to further Canyons District’s mission to help every student become college-and career-ready. To the end of raising money to support students with extra funds, the Foundation is hosting a Spring Gala at Corner Canyon High on April 28 at 6:30 p.m. For more information on the event, click here.
Christiansen and his classmates are already applying for more grants from other sources with the hope of purchasing a 3-D printer to aid their projects.
“Boyd has a saying that totally suits him — he says, ‘Don’t ask, don’t get,' " said Christiansen’s fellow student, Topher Johnson, who helped form the class. "Boyd’s like, ‘If I want to do something cool, the worst thing I can do is ask and they say no.’ ”
The students plan to explore concepts in engineering, work together, fix that broken drone they’ve agreed to repair for another teacher and create a special space in Jordan High where maker kids can build and create to their hearts’ content. They’ve got big dreams and a lot of potential, Christiansen says as he eyes the drone on his teacher's desk. Then he adds, “Hopefully, everything works out and nothing blows up.”