High Point teacher receives STEM grant


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  • From left, Principal Jonathan Tallamy, Matt Garrera, Jackie Espinoza, & STEM Supervisor Brian Drelick.



A $1,000 STEM grant was awarded to High Point Regional High School Technology Education Teacher Matt Garrera. The grant, provided by First Energy parent company, Regional Branch JCP&L, will expand a digital electronic systems unit in Garrera's Engineering Design Technology classes.

“Even though the regional population is declining, our department is full,” Garrera said.

He said he was grateful to First Energy for being part of adding new technology to their classrooms, above and beyond the already existing, “Wonderful program, new, and cool stuff.”

The digital electronic systems lesson unit, Garrera explained, will help students understand sub-systems thinking — how an electrical grid works with a control and output system, along with a mixture of home automation. Each student group, he continued, will be assigned an automated task of powering a mock town, with their own individual model houses. Possible tasks could include: automatic lights and street lights, a little red light illuminating after a package is delivered, switching over to a battery, after the power is cut from the electrical grid; and power automatically switching over to the battery pack, if a backup generator is unplugged.

Garrera said, the grant will allow them to purchase extra electronic components, many soldering irons, Arduino boards- micro-controllers to program on the computer

“Kind of like the brain of the system,” he said.

The new lesson unit will take place at the end of the year with a Capstone Project, within the Engineering Design Tech II and Tech II Honors courses.

In addition, he said, the unit will give real life experience, what they always strive for in their courses, of two teams trying to combine systems together and get them to work. He said, it will be similar to when scientists, engineers, and installers try to complete a project. The project will also expand their partnership with First Energy, he continued, helping the students understand what goes into everything taken for granted, like turning on the light switch. Garrera concluded, he looks forward to a great, eye opening experience for the kids, and he is really excited to try it out.

Garrera is a High Point graduate and has taught three years in the district. During his tenure as student, he co-designed an engineering project which earned him a U.S. Patent 2011.

The patent addressed the problem of bed sores caused by hospital bed mattresses. Specifically, he said, the patent was for an “input process/ output system,” which took readings from a sensor of high pressure areas, and then sent a message to vibrate the bed in specific areas, in order to stimulate blood flow through the body. He said, although their patent was never picked up by the industry, “It was a wonderful experience,” in the patent process.

STEM Supervisor Brian Drelick was his teacher at the time.

Garrera became a technology teacher after realizing he enjoyed working with his hands and solving problems. He added, he had always loved wood working — his dad is a carpenter; and he likes electronics and the trouble-shooting aspect of circuits.

He said Drelick pointed him in the direction of becoming a technology teacher after graduating from The College of New Jersey. He added, High Point District has been a wonderful district within which to work.

Drelick said he appreciates Garrera's initiative in applying for and receiving the program grant; and JCP&L has been a long standing supporter of STEM and public schooling.

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