Seventh Graders At Phifer Create Their Own Reading Lamps

Senior research engineer, Aron Rubin, came to inspire Mrs. Tracey McSweeney’s middle school robotics class for a third year in a row. As Aron explains it, his mission is to break the perception that engineering is the domain of special people but accessible to all.

Mr. Rubin preceded the student lesson with teacher in-service day, introducing Computer Aided Design (CAD), power drill use, large scale brazing, and small scale soldering. Then, together with both Mrs. McSweeney and Mr. Gilbride, Aron was able to have all 100 students drill, solder, and assemble their own clip on reading lamps.

This was another successful outreach; the project enabled the students to feel empowered as they engineered their own clip on desk lamp. Language arts teacher, Mrs. Howe, expressed that the students loved using their student-made clip on lamps in her class as they read their independent reading books! She went on to say that one student commented, “I can’t wait to go home and read in the dark, using my book light!”

The staff at Phifer Middle School cannot thank Aron enough for taking two days off of work to volunteer his time and expertise to spark interest in engineering and technology for our students.

The Lamp Making Process

Aron started each class by discussing the importance of engineering and learning how to make things on your own including electronics. Mr. Rubin explained how it is expected for things not to work the first time and used the example of the many trials it took for Thomas Edison to create a properly functioning light bulb filament. This is an important lesson for middle school students to learn; they need to learn how to transform all the stumbles along the way into growth opportunities. If they can master that skill, they will be our future scientists, engineers and more!  Instilling in students the desire to not give up and perform multiple trials of experiments in order to test their hypothesis is not only a good middle school science skill but is also an important life lesson.

Aron launched the lesson by giving a soldering overview and describing the four stations to the students. Students were divided up into three groups to cycle through the stations led by Mr. Rubin, Mrs. McSweeney, Mr. Gilbride, and substitute teacher, Ms. Factor.  Science coach Jonathan Nguyen and principal Thomas Honeyman also made a guest appearance during one of the lessons and helped lead a station.

Mrs. McSweeney’s station consisted of having the students drill the hole in the back end of a clothespin to receive the neck of the lamp. The clothespin was secured in a vice. Copper wires were bent into a “L” shape to form the neck of the reading lamp and was inserted into the hole the students drilled. At the first assembly station, copper conductive tape was wrapped around the back of the clothespin. This conductive tape would later make contact with a three volt battery to power the LED light.

Aron and Mr. Gilbride led the soldering station. First, the students soldered on the negative wire of the LED lights onto the copper tape, forming a negative battery terminal. The students then soldered the positive LED wire to a small copper square, forming the positive battery terminal. A student, along with substitute teacher, Mrs. Factor, led an assembly station of the lamp using a three volt battery.

Students then inserted a non-adhesive positive copper terminal. After the terminals are soldered to the LED wires, students went to the battery station, “sandwiching” the battery between the two terminals and compressed it with a piece of electrical tape.

The students came away with improved confidence for making things from scratch and were given an exciting introduction to drilling and soldering. Additionally, Mr. Honeyman led a special quadcopter station to reward students who successfully created their lamps early! Students loved seeing their principal experiment with the quadcopter and learn how to fly it with them!

It was absolutely a great learning experience for all!  This project enabled the students to feel empowered as they engineered their own clip on desk lamp!

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