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is that this can be a traveling STEM lesson, taken to other Harrisburg schools and even outside the district or up to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Tommy said he was approached by staff of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub at EAST Conference who expressed an interest in borrowing the bench. It was even suggested to show it to the Arkansas Arts Center.

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my own, that it’s all me, and I’m like, ‘No way!’ I saw this and learned how to do it using resources that were available to me.”

Those resources included leaning on fellow EAST students in Harrisburg’s agriculture program who could do the woodcutting and welding to put the actual bench together and burn the decoration into it. Tommy did the programming and circuitry, which was its own challenge. “Soldering!” he says when asked to identify the hardest part. “The intricacies of that are ridiculous!” In the end, though, even when it all worked, there were still questions.

“When we got done, everyone was left wondering what were we going to do with it. It’s just a bench that plays music.” The truth, though, is that it’s more than that. It’s a project that incorporates

“WHEN WE GOT DONE, EVERYONE WAS LEFT WONDERING WHAT WERE WE GOING TO DO WITH IT.”

(and can serve as a lesson about) virtually every aspect of STEM learning. There’s science in how the resistance works. Technology in the Arduino and coding. Engineering and math in the construction. The hope, then,

So does it solve a problem? Well, it offers a lesson and makes people smile in the process. That’s good enough for Tommy. “Most people’s EAST projects are dealing with hungry children or saving the world. Mine is a bench that plays music,” he laughed. “But when most people hear that, they wonder how it works. I’ll say, just sit on it and find out. And that’s what really makes me happy. The bench is a lot of fun.”

SPRING 2017 | EAST QUARTERLY

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Spring 2017 EQ  

The quarterly magazine of the EAST Initiative.

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