Education

Published on March 9th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Local company donates harmonograph to District Five school, brings art to special needs students

Columbia Tool & Die general manager Damon Groom shows special needs students how to create art using the harmonograph. 

IRMO – A Midlands engineering company has donated a device they hope will bring art to special needs students at a Lexington-Richland District Five high school.

Columbia Tool & Die delivered a harmonograph to Dutch Fork High School on March 4. School officials say the device, which uses pendulums to draw geometric images, will be used to help special needs students with physical disabilities create art. Engineering students at the school will also use the device to study physics and other science concepts.

“For the special needs students we wanted to create something that was visual and easy for them to use, and for the engineering students we wanted to inspire them through this device to study and perhaps design harmonographs of their own,” said Columbia Tool & Die General Manager Damon Groom. “It was a great project for us and we hope the students here get a lot out of it.”

A mid-19 century device, harmonographs were popular two centuries ago for their use of basic physics to create large varieties of visually appealing designs. Groom says the idea to utilize the device for special needs students spawned from Dutch Fork High School teacher Sondra Suarez and her students.

“My class has helped build some things for the upcoming MATP Exceptional Student Games and we just thought we needed something to help the special needs students create art,” said Suarez, who teaches engineering courses at Dutch Fork High School. “It will also be useful for our engineering students and other students at the school. First there are lessons about physics, perpetual motion and problem solving. It’s also a great example of how much local businesses help our schools and how engineers use their job to solve real-world problems.”

Engineering students Austin Hays and Haley Brown said the device will have an impact on special needs students and everyone at the school that sees it being used.

“It’s certainly great to see that the special needs students can have some sort of device that facilitates their art projects, which they may not be able to do themselves,” Hays said. “A lot of what they need is self-esteem. And maybe if they can see what they can do with the help of technology, it can help them go far.”

Brown added, “It’s a good edition to the school…This device makes it easy for special needs students to create art, so I think when people see it they will know that there’s a lot that we can do for others.”

At Dutch Fork High School on March 4, special needs students tried the device for the first time, watching the pendulum sway as swirls slowly formed into elaborate geometric artwork.

“This is fantastic for our students,” said Dutch Fork High special needs teacher Essie Food. “It’s visual, it’s something they can do by themselves, and they can study shapes and colors. So we can incorporate a lot of our curriculum in this. We’re grateful that the company decided to donate this to the school. It will bring a lot of hours of learning and fun to our students.”

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