Ricci students on track to explore go-karts

Ricci students on track to explore go-karts

David Maggiacomo, left, physical education teacher at Ricci, and Donti Rosciti, resource officer at the school, as they face off in a go-kart race. (Breeze photo by Brittany Ballantyne)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Step one: Race. Step two: Deconstruct. Step three: Build.

A group of 8th-grade students at Dr. Edward A. Ricci Middle School are on track to do just that with go-karts. The school has teamed up with The Center for Dynamic Learning for a mechatronics program. Its current project: build and modify go-karts.

But first, students had the chance to race them last Friday.

“If something’s not relevant to a child, it doesn’t make any sense. So, to them, it’s just a piece of paper,” said Kevin Cunha, chief operating officer and co-founder at the CDL, who, along with Matthew Moniz, technology engineering education teacher, is teaching the program.

Before a kid can learn about engines, they have to learn how to drive, Cunha said. He says grabbing children’s interests and making projects real to them is what hooks them.

The program allows students to create a series of Science Technology Engineering Art Math and Manufacturing projects that can be used in real-world scenarios.

Rather than teach STEAMM through books and numbers, Cunha said, students in the mechatronics program learn STEAMM principles through hands-on work.

The group of 12 students took over the gym last Friday, where they raced one another, and some faculty members jumped in on the fun, too. Now that they’ve taken a spin in the carts, Cunha said, they’ll be able to connect to the lesson on another level.

Next, students will take apart, in order, the buggies, which are made of about 200 parts, then draw 2-D and 3-D prints of the carts, he explained. While doing this, Cunha said, the students will have a chance to alter the go-kart by adding items like a top rack or floodlights, and modify the cart’s steering.

Tying in the art component of the project, Moniz said, is crucial.

“If you’re engineering, designing and building something, great – but when you go to market that, if it’s not pleasing to the eye, who’s going to buy it?” he said.

The students in this class have gone beyond creating and designing projects, Moniz said. They’re also looking out for the people who might theoretically purchase these items, and ways to better their lives.

During the program’s “engineer challenge” last month, Moniz and Cunha explained, students presented ideas for many inventions with the goal of helping others.

The winning “product” of the competition, Moniz said, was a pair of glasses that would cater to people living with color blindness. There were several ideas as to how the glasses could be effective, but Jenna Riley, who developed the product, also looked into solutions for those who don’t like to wear glasses.

Cunha said not only had Riley brainstormed an idea that could support others, but the student didn’t want the “customer” to psychologically feel like they’d been targeted by wearing a pair of glasses.

Cunha said he was taken aback that Riley thought, “Not only do I want to create something for you, but I want to make something that makes you feel comfortable.”

It’s his hope, like Moniz, to expand the program to the entire 8th-grade class next school year. Moniz said he’s working with Cunha to write grants to fund this initiative for the rest of the 8th graders, and Cunha hopes to help develop a creative curriculum with Moniz for the program in the future. Cunha said he’s also working on field trip opportunities for students to visit the CDL lab space in Providence.

Glancing around the gym as students whizzed by on go-karts, Cunha said, “This place gets me excited.”