First Friday: Made in Mashpee

The presenters at our June First Friday breakfast meeting made a lot of people want to go back to high school. At the Mashpee Technology Center at Mashpee Middle/High School, the offerings are not your parents’ shop class. Michael Looney, Kevin Blute, Amanda Hough, and Salvatore Nocella, who run the program, provide a hands-on learning environment and makerspace, and gave us an envy-inducing glimpse of what students are doing.

Mashpee is a comprehensive school, not a technical high school. Students can choose a pathway but not be limited to a subject. The programs prepare students for higher ed and careers through authentic learning experiences. There is also a transition program for students who need job skills.

In 2016 Mashpee was an MIT Launching Innovation Model School, and a Techxellence award winner in 2017 (one of two winners in the state). The goal is to be the model for comprehensive schools in Massachusetts. Mashpee receives federal funds because they are demonstrating what highly technical pathways in high schools should look like, and the rest of the state is jumping on board. For other schools to do it, they need a champion within the school. Mashpee is lucky to have four.

Salvatore Nocella graduated from Mashpee High in the school’s first graduating class. The year after he graduated, he started teaching AutoCAD and drafting, so his students could design and then build. In addition to 2D drafting in AutoCad, Sal now teaches 3D design, printing and animation; augmented reality; and virtual reality.

Department Coordinator Mike Looney teaches media production. He shows his students what goes into being an entrepreneur. They look at what needs to be done to bring an idea to fruition, from design to production and marketing.

Kevin Blute teaches woodshop, applied technology, and automated manufacturing. In old woodshop classes they would look at magazines and pick projects to make. Now, they design their own projects on the computer. Kevin says students show him pictures from Pinterest on their phones, and then work to design it themselves. A second project incorporates the laser machine and use of Adobe Illustrator, and a third project incorporates the ShopBot. Students keep digital portfolios of their projects, so if there is a part of the project they really like – drafting, design, etc. – they can take more classes in that area. Kevin was elected by students to give this year’s commencement speech.

Amanda teaches in the makerspace. When middle school students come for a tour, they are taught by high school students demonstrating what they do in class. Her students also skyped with an Australian teacher Amanda had met, and figured out what they could do to help with a mission that teacher does in Laos. They ended up designing a soap dish that would be useful, sent the SDL over, and it was made and used in Laos.

Students are constantly doing projects and have competed in regional and state competitions as well as presenting at conferences for the past four years, including the Massachusetts STEM Summit, the MassCue conference at Gillette Stadium, and regional STEM network meetings.

The school has created a culture that is teacher supported and student-driven. Teachers collaborate to recognize individual student needs and interests. Students – including those not in the technology track – use the makerspace to create prom signs and other school projects. When students need to get something done, they’ll check with the technology center. If the students need a part they take ownership and design/print what they need, often reverse engineering needed items.

In the process, the students become teachers. “It is the greatest to have them show me how to do things,” Kevin said.

If you have something you’d like to contribute, Mashpee Technology Center is looking for help on its advisory board, as well as people from the industry to support teachers and the students. There is specifically a need for high school engineering internships.

For more information regarding the Technology Center and to see samples of student work, visit their website at

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