And now for something completely different

Real life meets Geometry class…
A few months ago, my students (Sarah Hampton here) were able to design and build a parking lot for our school. In their own words, here’s how it happened.  This blog post was written by them.

Parking Lot: What’s the problem?
We have a huge real world problem that our geometry class can solve! Our school’s upper field parking area is somewhat of a mess. There are no instructions as to where parking is permitted, so, as a result, many drivers claim more parking space than needed and don’t leave any space for other drivers. This leads to a traffic jam, causing a slower and confusing flow of traffic. In addition, because of this catastrophe, many drivers are forced to drive on the running track in order to exit the area, thus damaging the surface and placing pedestrians at risk for being injured.

In order to address these problems, Mr. Mark Hill, the Head of the Building and Grounds Committee, tasked our Geometry class to design a parking lot. We had to fulfill the needs of a counterclockwise flow of traffic, follow local regulations, and maximize the number of parking spaces, all while making safety our number one priority. This fell into a two part project, first, we designed a blueprint for the parking lot, and secondly, we laid out the actual parking lot.

Our small class was divided into two teams: a team of the three girls and one of the four boys. To get to the best solution, the teams competed on making the best and most effective design possible. After working hard, both teams presented a pitch to three judges, Mrs. Hampton, our geometry teacher, Mr. Hill, the Head of Building and Grounds and a civil engineer, and Mr. Vermillion, our Head of School. As the pitch started, Mr. Hill set the tone for the students saying “Let me tell you this; this project is as real-world as it gets. If you were an engineering consulting firm, you would be doing the same thing right now. You would prepare a preliminary solution to the problem and “pitch” that to the project owners. In this case, that’s Sullins Academy. If we liked your design, we’d hire you to do the work. As students, you may get to see your design actually implemented, which will be a tangible reminder of your time here whenever you go up to the field.”

The three judges came to a conclusion that there were positive elements in both teams’ designs. As a result, there was a draw and Mr. Hill made a new blueprint combining ideas of both teams. On a cool day, the class went up to the track to start marking the parking lot. We built a curb stop template and an angled line template and took all of our other supplies: string, stakes, measuring tapes, a speed square, and a few sharpies. Then we measured out the correct angle and distances for each parking spot, which used our knowledge in geometry and basic math to figure out where to put everything.
Throughout this project, we learned how to use an engineer scale, create a blueprint, and include trigonometry in real life situations. Most importantly, we learned the significance of proportionality in similar figures. In the end, we realized how much work and math really go into constructing a parking lot!

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