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GLENS FALLS — Andrew Harrington was sitting in his seventh-grade science class, listening to music.

His teacher at Glens Falls Middle School and the two visiting students from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Engineering Ambassador program were happy about it.

That was largely because Harrington and the other members of his team had just created the speaker themselves, using alligator clips, a penny, wire, a plastic cup and other items connected to a laptop computer.

“This is really great,” teacher Megan McCabe said. “The students are familiar with the Chromebooks and learning with them. And they knew a lot more about sounds than I thought they did.”

Another group was having some trouble wrapping the wire around the penny, so student Henry Dye, who came to RPI from Kentucky, stepped in and showed them how to use the cup as a base for the wrapping.

“They just needed a little help,” he said, watching the group listen to the newly-made speaker.

Next door, in Jason Brechko’s classroom, students were learning about thermoelectric power from RPI students Jane Edgington and Louis Laponi.

The visit from the RPI students marked the second time the ambassadors have come to Glens Falls, and it was a result of Brechko’s involvement in the state’s Master Teacher program.

“I am in the program, and one of the big benefits of that is information sharing,” said Brechko, who is in his 20th year teaching. “Someone mentioned the RPI Ambassadors program, and I said, ‘Oh, tell me more about that.’”

While Brechko was talking, his students were using hot and cold water to make electric fans run, and at the front of the room, a light bulb was lit by the heat from a candle.

Edgington, who is from western New York, and Laponi, from New Jersey, were walking around the room, helping the four-person groups trying to make things work.

The class period seemed to fly by, and students went slightly overtime, cleaning up and getting permission to be a couple of minutes late for the next class.

Brechko had a question of his own for the RPI students, largely because he saw a chance to make a point with his students.

“I have a question,” he said, when Edgington and Laponi paused for questions. “Why did you go to RPI?”

Laponi answered first, saying: “I always wanted to be an engineer. I was always working with my hands and taking things apart as a kid. I went to an overnight program at RPI, and I was hooked.”

Edgington said she had always been interested in math and science.

“I always loved the outdoors, and someone who thought I was smart said I could make a real impact as an engineer. I wanted to make a difference in my career path.”

You can read Bill Toscano’s blog at or his updates on Twitter, @billtoscano_ps.



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