Matthew Strine students at Monessen Middle/High School explored business and technology using 3D printers to create and sell custom keychains and cube-shaped fidget toys.
It’s part of the district’s Maker Space program that the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teacher worked to launch — an effort that won him a $1,000 grant from the National Society of High School Scholars as a finalist for Educator of the Year 2021.
Strine, who grew up in Penn Hills, has also been recognized for his work with computer science students, who learn to use the Python programming language. Since entering musical creation competitions as part of the Amazon Future Engineer program, he has transformed his office into a functional studio for the class.
Strine’s prize money from the NSHSS is in addition to more than $20,000 in previous grants he has received to develop technology-related resources in the district. Grants were applied to purchase several 3D printers, a heat press that students will use to customize t-shirts, and two welding machines and a grinder that students can use for metalworking projects. .
“We now have nine 3D printers and are hoping to get three more,” Strine said.
Relying largely on word of mouth, Strine students sell the items that come out of the 3D printers to fellow students and members of the community. “The students run the business with my help,” he said.
Strine also guides students in creating little robots and pits them against entries from other schools in a Bots IQ competition.
Its students participate in Project Invent, a national program that challenges students to create solutions to the needs of their community. Inspired by a former Monessen student who uses a wheelchair, Strine students are working on a kit that could be used to convert a manual wheelchair to a motorized version.
“They’re trying to make it more profitable,” Strine said. “It would be much cheaper than buying an electric wheelchair.”
NSHSS is an honors and scholarship program co-founded by James Lewis and Claes Nobel, great-nephew of Alfred Nobel and eldest member of the Nobel Prize family.
Strine and nine other Educator of the Year award winners “showed enormous passion, commitment and resilience to bring out the best in their students,” Lewis said.
Strine has worked at the Monessen City School District for about two years. He is in his 17th year as an educator in a career that included a detour into the corporate world. This experience contributed to her success in seeking grants.
“You need to be an advocate for yourself and your students,” Strine said. “I want to do everything I can to bring resources to students who wouldn’t otherwise have them.”