Nashua middle schoolers build robots, holograms, and more as a part of pre-engineering program

Nashua is full of hackers, coders, and structural engineers. They’re working with 3D printers, developing sensors for robots, and developing new apps. But they’re not adults–they’re sixth and seventh graders at Elm Street Middle School, and the Nashua Telegraph featured a great piece on them.

Thanks to a grant from the New Hampshire Department and the Pre-Engineering Technology Advisory Council (PETAC), the school is developing a robust pre-engineering curricular for middle schoolers:

“People sometimes don’t know what you’re doing here; we have got to show off our robots, 3D printers, our holograms,” said David Purington, an Elm Street Middle School teacher in the pre-engineering program, “It will blow you away.”

Purington described how students design and create their own hologram optical illusions. “In all these things, math is embedded, and it makes math fun,” he said.

“In sixth and seventh grades, the kids are programming the robots. By grade seven, they use the sensors,” Purington said, referring to sensors on the robots that help them navigate their surroundings, “By grade eight, you have to build your own robot.”

Karen Martin teaches computers, including learning to code. “We created apps. We just made ‘Pong’ and they made changes to the ‘sprite,’ or the ball, and the background,” she said.

“There’s a big element of problem solving.”


“There’s a lot more young ladies becoming involved, we’re getting more girls involved in engineering,” Hovey said. “I see everyone down here-this isn’t for boys, it’s for everyone,” Purington said.

Twelve-year old Aidan has a knack for hacking, but channels his gift into an ELO working with his teacher:

Currently, Purington has seventh grader Aidan Currie, 12, working as his teacher’s assistant through an Extended Learning Opportunity, or ELO. “He used to hack computers in sixth grade, but we turned him into a ‘good guy’ hacker,” Purington said. “He needs to work for the FBI someday – I can’t imagine being on the other side of the fence from him.”


The DOE has a grant program for schools for startup costs associated with developing and implementing their grade 6-12 pre-engineering curriculum. Schools work with regional career and technical education centers to make sure that as students progress through the pathway, there’s a seamless transition to college-level engineering programs. Elm Street School and two other middle schools were chosen as grantees:

“I wrote the grant and luckily they chose us. With the district matching funding, the three middle schools got about a total of a $100,000….a lot of money in today’s tight education economy,” she said.

The PETAC grant helped to fund the 3D printers and robots. “The 3D printers run around the clock. Students can design at home, bring designs in on a flash drive, and print it here,” Purington said. “I have never seen technology wear out – it becomes obsolete before it wears out. We’re trying to wear it out,” he said.

There’s a bill in the Senate that will expand the pre-engineering curriculum to K-12. HB 412 already passed the House and will be referred to the Senate Education Committee in the coming weeks.

Martin created a promotional video of STEAM programs in Nashua schools, which will be shown on April 20 at the STEAM fair at Bicentennial Elementary School.

Read the full article here.