8th Grade Architects Demonstrate Math and Design Skills

Posted on March 29th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

By Beth Guzzetta, Middle School Math and Science Teacher and Lucius and Marie Gordon Chair in Science

Eighth grade “architects” present their project proposals to “clients”, explaining the math behind their engineering, design, and cost decisions

It was finally time for the competing architects to present their proposals. Each came armed with their virtual project plans, cost estimates, and scale model to prove that their design had the optimal combination of functionality, aesthetics, and cost-effectiveness. The project: cabins for a special-needs camp in the Northeast that can accommodate ten campers and a counselor, with beds, personal storage, and a bathroom. The judges included the Chairman of one of the most respected and successful construction companies in New York State. The architects: Allendale Columbia 8th-grade math students.

The architect project is a perfect example of how we as Middle School faculty implement numerous aspects of STEM into our curriculum through authentic, real-world applications.

Students strengthened their understanding of the application of math concepts such as trigonometric functions, the Pythagorean Theorem, and linear equations while exploring roof options, perimeter and area relationships related to cost-effectiveness, proportions and measurement associated with scale models, and percentages pertaining to building integrity. Engineering skills were enhanced through the process of creating a three-dimensional model complete with a gable roof using their chosen pitch. Technology was used by students to build geospatial development while creating virtual models of their cabins complete with furniture, bathroom amenities, and furnishings of the student’s choosing.

“My biggest challenge was coming up with the roof design,” remarked Max Doud in between presentations of his proposals to various parents and teachers. “Because I chose an L-shaped design, I had to work through a couple of different roof options, and ended up with a rectangular 1:2 pitch gable roof that would be simpler than trying to combine two gable roofs together, and it provides a nice overhang for a covered outdoor seating area, which makes my project better as compared to the others.” He used different cut-out triangles to explain the differences between 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, and 1:4 roof pitches (the height or “rise” compared to half the horizontal span from center to edge, or “run”).

Interior design challenges included providing enough space for beds and bathroom facilities for ten special-needs campers, including access for wheelchairs and a separate room for a counselor. Students had to calculate and explain such things as overall area and perimeter, room shape and size, roof pitch, and floor area. They also had to defend their decisions on aesthetics, materials, overall costs, and cost per square foot.

Judges included:

  • Head of Middle School Tina Duver
  • Director of the AC Invent Center for STEM and Innovation Maya Crosby
  • Middle School Science Teacher Teresa Parsons
  • Parents, including Thomas Judson, Jr., Chairman of The Pike Companies. His grandson, Thomas Riveros, is in the class

Jerry and Anna Maria DeLuccio, grandparents of 8th-grader Awak Thongjang, also served as judges. “We attended the 8th-grade Architect proposals and were impressed at how engaged the students were in the overall project and the quality of their work. Their motivation and pride was clear and the extended learning across math, listening skills, artistic license, presentation skills and spatial capacity was quite impressive. There was even a Virtual Reality system that showed the cabin in 3D that brought it all together for them and their audience. We congratulated them all for a job well done and walked away with some AC pride ourselves.”

It is always fulfilling to watch the students develop their math and geospatial skills effortlessly through projects that they can later reflect on and apply to their own lives

Elizabeth Guzzetta

Elizabeth Guzzetta

Beth, AC's Lucius and Marie Gordon Chair in Science and NY State Finalist for the 2016-17 Presidential Awards for Excellence In Science Teaching, has taught mathematics, science, and computer courses at the middle school, high school, and college levels in addition to private tutoring for 29 years. She has also coached Varsity boys and girls soccer and Modified softball and basketball. Beth has coached Odyssey of the Minds, helping one team receive second in the world, and enjoys bringing students on domestic and international academic and cultural experiences. She holds a bachelor's degree in Mathematics from St. John Fisher College as well as a master's degree in Education from Curry College, and brings experience from an international exchange program in Wales.
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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Highlights, Invent, Middle School

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