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Laser-Focused Students

“Thebes and Colonus are separated by mountains. In order to communicate with each other they must use light and mirrors. The messages from the King of Thebes to Oedipus in Colonus will only come through if you avoid the mountains.” 
 
 
That is the object of the project being completed by the entire ninth grade. Earlier, in Humanities 9, the ninth grade read “Antigone,” set in the town of Thebes and features Oedipus as a main character.  To wrap up STEM Foundations—a grade-wide course designed to teach math, science, and engineering—students are embarking on a multiweek project using the same characters and setting as the play. Using models, students must find a way to successfully shine a laser through a wooden obstacle course into a target. 
 
“We’ve been planning this since January 2022,” explained STEAM Teacher Alex Lahr. It’s clear to see why: this project is intricate and meticulously planned to use aspects of all major STEM disciplines. Students must understand how light refracts off mirrors (using their physics knowledge), calculate angles at which the lasers must hit the mirrors at (geometry), and then 3D print the mirror stands (engineering). "The goal is to both hit the designated target in the center and use the fewest mirrors possible to get there.” 
 
Working together, STEAM Teachers Luke Pritchett and Simon Metcalf designed and fabricated both the targets the students must hit and the mountain scene, made of wood, that the students must avoid with the laser beam. The detail on the models is beautiful, a real forest scene full of tiny trees and animals. All of the fabrication was done here at Gann, using all the equipment available to students and faculty in the Prototyping and Fabrication labs. Meanwhile, STEAM teachers Alex Lahr and Steve Wood produced all the written materials to go along with this project, including a detailed calendar for students to refer to as they tackle one of their first long term high school projects. 
 
This project is an excellent example of the way Gann intentionally integrates learning in and across disciplines!