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Converted trailer would connect students with STEAM equipment, ideas

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin mayor Lou Ogden speaks during a ceremony to honor local business leaders for their role in making the city a quarterfinalist of the America's Best Communities.The team working to bring victory to Tualatin in the America's Best Communities contest revealed its ace in the hole Thursday in a presentation at the Century Hotel.

With so many of the region's jobs in the manufacturing sector, presenters said, it would be a boon to Tualatin if students were able to engage with disciplines like science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) and get career technical education (CTE) in an accessible and comprehensive way.

To that end, the city of Tualatin and its ABC Team partners — which include the Tigard-Tualatin School District, the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce, Mask & Mirror Community Theatre, South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership, and the Tualatin Tomorrow Visioning Advisory Committee — want to invest in a mobile “Makerspace” filled with gizmos and gadgets.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - John Niebergall of the Sherwood High Bowmen Fab Lab talks about the various projects his students have completed during an America's Best Communities event in Tualatin.The concept is similar to John Niebergall's “Bowmen Fab Lab.” Niebergall, a Sherwood High School teacher who spoke at Thursday's presentation about his work, has traveled to schools throughout Oregon and beyond with his trailer full of design tools, including a laser cutter, a three-dimensional printer and a T-shirt press. He showed off a table covered with objects that students have created with the technology he has shared with them over the years.

“About 22 percent of your employment is in the manufacturing world,” Niebergall said. “Use that and rock with it. They need our kids.”

The Makerspace described Thursday would be a converted semi-trailer, stocked with the same sort of technological wizardry with which Niebergall works. It could be moved from place to place or from event to event to give as much of Tualatin's youth as possible — including children from low-income families — access to the equipment and concepts within.

Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden said the goal is to get Tualatin's kids into skilled jobs — whether that's done with a mobile Makerspace to help cultivate an interest and teach skills related to STEAM or technical disciplines, or whether the prize money of up to $3 million for the nationwide contest is put toward building a “community career and creative center,” which is the plan's long-term goal.

“If we don't advance another step in this competition — which I don't think is likely — but if we don't, we've already gained so much,” Ogden said.

“If nothing else, we have this conversation firmly entrenched now,” said Jason Robertson, the team's “vision advisor.”

Tualatin was named a quarterfinalist in the America's Best Communities competition this spring. Its team was awarded $50,000 to come up with the “community revitalization plan” laid out Thursday, with which it hopes to reach the semifinals and eventually win the $3 million grand prize.

The competition is sponsored by Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel. Tualatin's local sponsor is Intel.

COURTESY OF THE CITY OF TUALATIN - This artist's rendering shows how Tualatin's 'Makerspace' could look and the equipment it could contain.

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