A student leans over a worktable, sawing back and forth with a handsaw. Over the loud din, another student tells me she’s building a stool. Sawdust flies as beautiful, yet functional, wood pieces come together through the students’ patient and determined handiwork.
The woodworking class is one of ShanghaiTech’s new offerings, a hands-on class to supplement the students’ current lab-heavy workload. It, along with a 3D Printing class, are part of an effort to provide more diverse options for students to put their STEM skills into practice.
At the beginning of each session, instructor Miao Xiao Dong explains the project the students will be taking on. For each of the course’s eight classes, the students will create a useful wooden creation, from stools to phone stands. Then the student put on their protective masks and get to work, using tools and machines to file, saw and drill their pieces into finished works.
“This is really sharp,” Miao tells a student he’s helping file a piece of wood. “You can make it nice and neat here.” He moves to another table where a student is preparing to saw her piece of wood. “Saw here, and you can make it into a double-sided phone stand. That way you can both watch your phones together.”
Miao says he’s impressed with the students’ drive. “Time is limited and they must finish one piece each class, so they don’t even have time to take a break. They’re very focused,” he says.
The students throw themselves into the class. There is even talk among some of the students of creating a woodworking club after the course finishes. One student explains, “You can’t just study theory. You also have to learn craft.”