GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Aycock Middle School’s Daniel Lewis-Niece is WNCT’s STEM Teacher of the Month.
Lewis-Niece is teaching a new class that was implemented this school year called Innovative Technology Design (TDI). His 6th-8th graders are using CADD programming and 3D printers and learning about business and marketing skills to sell the products they create.
Lewis-Niece is a UNC–Greensboro graduate and earned his teaching license at ECU. He started his career as a studio sculptor, but it was his desire to do something greater in life that inspired him to change course and become a teacher. It’s that passion that his peers took notice of when Lewis-Niece was challenged to start up the school’s technology design and innovation class.
Kareem Atkinson, a counselor at Aycock Middle School said, “This TDI lab has been something that’s been great to bring out all of his artistic qualities and put it more into a visual and computerized aspect in the development of making things. His art background has been one of the major factors of him doing so well in starting up our TDI lab.”
The STEM curriculum has opened a whole new way of learning for not only Lewis-Niece, but for his students too. He explained, “Now I know how to market my stuff, create a business. I know how to 3D print. I know how to update firmware and software, illustrator.” He added, “This is interest based learning for me too, I get here a little earlier now and I get to come in and play with all these toys.”
For one of his students, Juel Rivera, the STEM-based class provides a new and fun way of learning. The sixth grader said he could spend all day in Lewis-Niece’s class. He said in his art class, he can draw and in his TDI class, he can create all those things.
During this class, he was looking up the specifications for a cell phone charger. Lewis-Niece said it’s that type of excitement that makes his time as a teacher worth it. “In one class period, he created a cell phone case most kids. It takes a week and he’s found something now, that he’s good at and he could get paid for one day, and that makes it worth it for me,” said Lewis-Niece.
Lewis-Niece is using that passion to teach his students these skills and he’s doing so by launching a TDI store. “We started off our marketing campaign by making rings and we didn’t charge the students for the rings, they created it and they get it, but they had to learn diameter and learn how to measure in millimeter,” he said.
The students now cater to their peers, acting as employees, creating and selling things like customized rings and cell phone cases and holders.
“The kids were really motivated, not just by making products, but they get paid, not cash, but we replenish our plastic supply. We are funded by ourselves and we take the left over profit and have a pizza party.
Lewis-Niece said these are lessons that simply weren’t taught when he was a student. He said, “I really love it, because when I was an art major, nobody told me maybe you should take a business class or maybe you should learn to market yourself and we’re trying to give the kids this.”