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Valley News Dispatch

Burrell students give 3-D life to Paris studies

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Wednesday, April 25, 2018, 2:54 p.m.
A picture of the map on display at People's Library in Lower Burrell on April 12, 2018.
Madasyn Czebiniak | Tribune Review
A picture of the map on display at People's Library in Lower Burrell on April 12, 2018.

French students at Burrell High School learned about "The City of Love" in a non-traditional way this school year.

Instead of just using their textbooks, they used the school's makerspace to create and design an interactive map of Paris, complete with 3-D print-outs of famous Persian landmarks that light up.

"They're so proud of their work," French teacher Dan Pounds said. "They're like, 'I can't believe we did that.'"

About 20 French 3 and 4 students crafted the map, which took about a week. It is made of vinyl, and is currently showcased at People's Library in Lower Burrell.

The landmarks, which are blue and orange, are made of a vegetable oil-based plastic. They have LED lights in or near them that light up when you press buttons connected to watch batteries and copper circuitry tape.

Some recognizable ones are the Eiffel Tower and the Moulin Rouge.

"It was just a fun, culminating project for us to be able to kind of celebrate our learning, learn how to use a bunch of the new technologies that we have in the Burrell Makerspace," Pounds said.

Pounds said the map was both teacher-and-student-inspired. As part of their unit on Paris, students had to research the famous landmarks and present what they learned about them to the class — all in French — and one student used the makerspace to create a 3-D image of The Conciergerie.

Pounds, who had previously seen paper circuits being used in the makerspace, wanted to use them in his French classes.

It escalated from there.

"That kind of got me to thinking, 'What if we could do this for all the different landmarks that we studied and did?'" Pounds said. "And we found a way to be able to pull it off and make it happen."

The students didn't design their individual landmarks — they found pre-made models of the designs online, Pounds said. However, all were printed out at the makerspace. They took about 20 minutes each to print.

Teacher Ron Zanella runs the high school's makerspace, which is for a variety of projects such as vinyl graphics, laser etching, 3-D printing and video creation. Math classes have used the space to make stained glass out of slope-intercept equations, and economics classes have made commercials for products as well as business cards and fliers.

The space also makes things for district fundraisers, like etched wine-glasses.

"We're pretty busy down here," Zanella said. "If you add up all the different projects that we have done, over 2,500 different items got produced in this room this year."

Pounds said several people have expressed an interest in the map, including students in his Advanced Placement U.S. History class who want to make a battlefield map of Gettysburg.

He said a benefit of making the map was that he was learning along with his French students, and it gave them the opportunity to learn about something they wouldn't learn about in normal circumstances.

"With the technology that we now have available ... the sky's the limit," Pounds said.

While the project didn't necessarily teach the students how to perfect their French, it did show them the benefits of collaboration and working together, Pounds said.

"This is something that is cultural, an appreciation of life different from what they know and what they see every day," he said. "I think it's more the experience of coming together and doing something like this. Everybody had an equal and important part. It's really collaboration, teamwork, not necessarily French curriculum, but I think important lessons that our kids get."

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702,, or on Twitter @maddyczebstrib.

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