Story by Leslie King // Video by Jesse Paddock
Since starting his eighth-grade elective course, STEAM by Design, in 2016, Karl Schaefer has encouraged his students to use cutting-edge technology, engineering and coding to solve real-life problems.
This year, students enrolled in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) by Design decided to address some of the problems that have arisen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, namely the accidental waste of hand sanitizer when users pressed the pump of gallon-sized dispensers too
“These bottles — they’re huge,” Shreya Rao ’25 explained. “They’re meant to be filling up smaller bottles. I took a really big hand sanitizer pump, and I can take a bath in it. Really. It was a big problem. We were wasting a lot of hand sanitizer, more than we needed.”
“And that’s kind of where this whole Sani Savr evolution came about,” Schaefer said. “I was looking for something to try to do that would be current, tangible, solve a problem and give us the design-thinking cycle to go through that I could also keep us safe and solve a problem that I saw the first time I saw that massive jug of Germ Attack.”
The result — Sani Savr — is a plastic clip that attaches to the dispenser, preventing the pump from depressing all the way down, and resulting in just the right amount of hand sanitizer for one person.
Students designed Sani Savr on Tinkercad and then 3D-printed and tested their prototypes.
“Looking at CDC guidelines and everything, it’s not too little that it’s not going to kill the [COVID-19] virus, but it’s not too much that we’re wasting it,” Emily Simmons ’25 said.
“They’re fearless,” said Schaefer of his students. “They know that the worst thing that can happen is it doesn’t work right, and they keep trying. Something about COVID-19 is we have so many opportunities to do real-world teaching. This is just my little stab at that.”
“Both of my parents are engineers, so engineering is something that I’m really familiar with and as of this moment I think I want to be a mechanical engineer when I grow up too, so I was really excited when there was a STEAM class that I could enter,” Simmons said.
“After STEAM, after I graduate from the Middle School, I would like to continue on and I would like to pursue the field of technology and computer science,” Rao said. “Ever since I gained access to the 3D printers, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of things that I can solve and I can create and I can fix. And it’s really awesome to have that opportunity.”
STEAM by Design 2020–2021
- Sarra Abdelbarr ’25
- Emery Anderson ’25
- Grayson Auman ’25
- Ryan Bauroth ’25
- Lexie Chen ’25
- Aayaz Husain ’25
- Trajen Odom ’25
- Shreya Rao ’25
- Emily Simmons ’25
- Siddharth Srivats ’25
- Preston Swigart ’25
- Marcus Vermeulen ’25
- Zach Wahidi ’25