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Breaking it down

William Walker students explore design concepts through electronics


Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Nathaniel Dozier and Bryan Gonzalaez disassemble a computer during a Junkyard Science after-school class at William Walker Elementary School.As a 9-year-old with presumably minimal workforce experience, Christian Merino disassembles an old Dell printer with considerably more care and delicacy than a grizzled office veteran who’s cleared one too many a paper jam in his career.

Rather than seeking revenge on wayward office equipment, Merino removes screws, pins and other parts to figure out how the machine operates, or at least, how its components fit back together or work in another configuration.

“It’s fun because you get to take apart stuff and make stuff out of it,” Merino says. “We have to remember what we did, and we get to see what’s inside.”

Merino is among about 10 William Walker Elementary students taking part in the school’s “Junkyard Science” workshop. The weekly hands-on session is part of the SHINE program, which several Beaverton district schools take part in to offer after-school and summer classes designed to enhance academic investment and inspire personal enrichment.

A William Walker teacher conceived “Junkyard Science” as a way to recycle used, unwanted electronic components while giving curious students a direct way to explore the inner-workings of a variety of technology. Liz Norman, the school’s site manager for SHINE, picked right up on the idea as a perfect fit for the curriculum.

Gesturing toward the students eagerly engaging their small screwdrivers and tools to deconstruct the donated printers, computer towers and DVD players assembled on the desks before them, Norman assesses the popularity factor.

“As you can see, they’re loving it,” she says, adding, “Science is my passion. I want to pass it along to students. This started as a conversation about how we can use recyclables and how we can use the community.

“If something doesn’t work (at home or the office), people can donate it,” she adds. “In this day of technology, even old things can be used or included as building blocks for new things.”

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Angie Brionoz-Gonzalez and Diana Santiago take apart a computer during a Junkyard Science after-school class at William Walker Elementary School.The SHINE students are spending this semester of Junkyard Science focusing on inquiry and breaking down equipment to form a hypothesis of how it works. Next semester, with input from companies such as Nike and Intel, they will move on to work with engineers and other experts to explore practical design applications that could be developed in SHINE’s Design Camp.

“I like it because we’re discovering what’s in computers and what kind of materials they used to make them,” says Isaiah Avalos, 9, as he puts tools away to record what he discovered during Friday’s lesson.

“There’s things we get to discuss about technology,” adds fourth-grader Angie Brionez, who’s working on a computer tower with fifth-grader Dianna Santiago.

Ryan Mendoza, 9, enjoys getting to the heart of a toy car he disassembled.

“I just like to unscrew stuff and make something new with it,” he says. “They let me take things apart, but it’s hard to put it back together.”

William Walker Principal Joanne Hulquist is encouraged by what she’s seen of Junkyard Science and other elements of the still-growing SHINE program.

“I was really excited,” she says of the original idea. “The two big pieces, inquiry and engineering design, to me this has both of those. Taking things apart and learning how things work. That’s what we need (to prepare for) Design Camp.

“There’s not a lack of people wanting to be involved,” she adds. “The coordination piece is the trickiest part.”

Norman, who set up rigorous safety guidelines to protect children from toxins and other potentially dangerous parts of the equipment, makes a point to include safety and working together in the after-school class format.

“They’re working as a team and using their own personal approaches,” she says. “And it’s fun. They have a fun, safe place to go. It’s better than watching TV at home.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Rodal Taman and Atal Gurung disassemble a computer during a Junkyard Science after-school workshop at William Walker Elementary School.

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