Cook Middle School - Houston, TX

June 25th, 2008

Dear Pam,
I have been teaching Technology Education production lab classes for seven years. I now teach at Cook Middle School for Cypress Fairbanks ISD in Houston, Texas. Lathe projects have always been a favorite for my students and myself. It’s the one project that just continues throughout the year. Someone always has a gift that they need to make. If a student has any “free time” they get the reward of making a pen, yo-yo, letter opener, basically whatever they choose. I’ve made a poster of projects that are approved by my district and that is what they get to pick from. I have used Penn State Industries products for three years and I am impressed with their quality of service and materials. The lathe projects are actually very easy and students can complete one, start to finish, in 2-4 periods, depending on their level of commitment to finish. This is an excellent way to teach them quality control and the universal system model, because they are actively involved.
This year my Exploring Tech Ed (2nd year students) we’re looking through the catalog to make a wish list of items for me to order. The one they wanted the most was more lathes. When we discussed the price and the fact that my budget couldn’t pay for more, they were the ones who asked “can we make pens and sell them?” The answer was “yes.” They picked out the items they thought would sell, created the price sheet so that they could make a profit and did the customer surveys. It turns out that the satin finish and blue/black acrylic is the favorite in my school. We ended up having to stop taking orders from teachers for them, until we get back from Christmas break. These projects are so user friendly that you can easily teach, monitor, and help many students, even though they are all doing different projects. I always seem to have “lathe addicts” and this year they are really taking the knowledge to that next level. Parents, administrators, everyone can’t believe what these kids can do. That is just about the best thing, building up these kids’ self esteem. I have even had to call parents, because they thought their child had bought them at a store and couldn’t believe he/ she made it.
If you think these projects are too hard or expensive, then start off simple and work your way up. Anyone can make a basic key chain. Just try and you’ll love the results you will get. I have co-presented at more conference than I can count. Teaching other teachers how to do these projects. Ted Weiberg and I thought we’d do something “new” this year for winter and summer conferences. Well we just got told “that’s great, but you have to do the lathe again.” These projects are ones that not only students but also fellow teachers can’t get enough of. I encourage you to try. I can also guarantee that you will be pleased with Penn State Industries and will probably start ordering even more than I do. Get out there and have even more fun teaching your students.
By the way, I probably order $4000.00 to $5000.00 worth of supplies each school year from Penn State Industries, but I make about $2000.00 profit, which goes into my operational budget. It may seem expensive at first, but it really pays off quickly in both knowledge, enjoyment, and money.
Rachel Baxter, Tech Ed Teacher
Cook MS / Cy-Fair ISD, Houston, TX

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