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Making something new in middle school

New technology allowing 3D printing is being used to create everything from food to body parts, and is also being used at Beatrice Middle School.

Makerspace is a collaborative work space in schools and libraries across the country that focuses on making, learning, exploring and sharing using high tech to no tech tools.

This includes using paper, scissors and glue, as well as computers, iPads, 3D pens and, of course, 3D printers.

“Makerspace is a push to get kids making,” said Karen Dittbrenner, media specialist at BMS. “Kids just don’t make with their hands like they used to. You see it in school. Teachers ask for projects, the projects are a lot of times kind of pitiful, because kids just don’t do things with their hands that don’t involve remotes as much or hardly at all. Makerspace is getting them to make something.”

Makerspace is held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday during study hall. Every day a different grade is chosen, and four students per study hall are picked to go to Makerspace. The grades are rotated through, which means each week one grade will have a chance to go twice in a week.

Dittbrenner said that Makerspace has been an “educational buzzword” for the last few years.

“We jumped in, and I’m excited because we’re one of the ones in the [Educational Service Unit 5] that everybody is checking in with us to see ‘what do you have? How do you do it? Can we come visit?’" she said. "Freeman just sent five teachers over to see what we were doing, see what we had, and talk about how it runs then ask if they could use some of the stuff that we have developed.”

John Jarosh, Principal at BMS, said the technology is giving students in Beatrice opportunities that didn't previously exist.

“When I grew up, there was nothing like some of the things they do," he said. "When we wanted to do something, we went to the store and bought a model, so we got used to some technical reading and how to put stuff together. I’m really blessed that I have people that just take things and run with them. I basically provide spiritual support, funding, time and the space, and Karen takes it from there.”

Dittbrenner explained the process of how students learn to 3D print.

“When they make something the first time, just to get them excited about it, I let them go take something from sites that you can take them for free,” Dittbrenner said. “So your first print can be something you didn’t create at all. You kind of steal it from the internet, from the creative commons, that’s what it’s designed for.

“In order to print the next one, if they go take something from Creative Commons and bring it in, they’ve got to alter it.”

She added a goal of Makerspace is to get students making something functional, like a gear that could repair a toy car.

Dittbrenner said that due to the amount of time allotted, if students wait for her to give instructions there isn’t enough time to get things done.

“From a teacher that likes them sitting and everything just so, this is a stretch for me,” Dittbrenner said. “It is pretty chaotic and I’m moving to get to kids, one with a hand up and one hollering ‘hey, I need my password,’ that kind of stuff. For the most part it works pretty well.”

Dittbrenner doesn't want to discourage students from learning, but she also does not give them the answers.

“A lot of the kids want you to tell them exactly how to do it, and when you won’t just feed them exactly how to do it and you make them do trial and error – go watch this tutorial, go see what this step-by-step guide has for you – a lot of kids get frustrated,” Dittbrenner said. “They want me to stand right there and tell them click here, click there, do this, do that, so I think that’s a huge challenge for the kids, having to figure out how they can do it on their own.”

The next step for the school is to bring Makerspace into classrooms.

Dittbrenner said students have also gotten a chance to 3D print and use biscuit cutters in Jan Smaus’ family and consumer science class.

Last month, the Beatrice Public Library received internship grant funding from the Nebraska Library Commission. The interns hired will be working with the Transforming Rural Communities’ Makerspace grant.

“If we can start some services at the middle school that kids could either help you with or that we can grow from there, to get people from the community excited, we sure would be willing to do that,” Dittbrenner said.

Dittbrenner said the community is welcome to see 3D printing in person, if they set up a time by emailing her at

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More snow for the Sunland

Many Beatrice residents stayed indoors over the weekend weekend after the latest snow and ice storm hit.

The Beatrice Municipal Airport recorded 5 1/4 inches of snow on top of the three inches that were already on the ground. An accurate measure of ice could not be given, as it fell with a mix of sleet.

"When we have the high winds like that and the heavy snow, we are unable to put down salt and sand until after the snow comes through," said Jason Moore, city street superintendent. "If you put down salt and sand, all it does is it get covered underneath the snow. So we have to wait until the snow is done."

Moore said they were able to plow the highways and emergency routes, but couldn't work on melting the ice until Sunday afternoon.

"When we did finally have the wind die down, we had about three hours that we could apply salt and sand and try and get the melting going before the temperature dropped back down into the single digits," Moore said. "Once it gets too low, our salt won’t work. So we had a small window to apply the salt and sand and try to get as much melted as possible."

Beatrice is expecting temperatures in the mid-to-low twenties this week, with one to two inches of snow predicted for Friday.

Beatrice Public Schools used its last allotted snow day last week, meaning any more snow days will push back students' summer vacation.

Assistant Superintendent Jackie Nielsen said the school board also evaluates the number of school hours scheduled to make sure they meet the state requirements.

"I am not 100 percent for sure when the last time that we have used the three built in snow days," Nielsen said. "For a couple of years when I started, we did not have snow days built into the calendar. Having snow days built into the calendar provides us with a little more flexibility when making a decision. If we did not have them built into the calendar, we would then have to add on days at the end or make a judgement call based on the state requirement of hours that districts must meet."

Drugs found in car during traffic stop

Beatrice police arrested a man for drug possession following a traffic stop Friday morning.

On Saturday around 2:30 a.m. Beatrice police spotted a vehicle speeding on the area of 19th and Lincoln streets.

Arrest documents state the vehicle was traveling 41 mph in a 35 mph zone and the officer followed the area down Dorsey Street and conducted a traffic stop on Industrial Row.

The driver, 27-year-old Andrew B. Linville, was contacted and told police he was driving to Sterling.

Following the traffic stop, police asked Linville if they could search his vehicle and arrest documents stated he consented to the search.

Inside the vehicle, police found a blue device used for crushing pills. Inside the device was a cellophane wrapper with a small green pill and an orange capsule. The pills were identified as Adderall and Amphetamine.

In the center console of the vehicle was a prescription pill bottle for Lorazepam, that was not prescribed to Linville.

Documents state the pills matched the color and texture of a ground material that was recovered.

Arrest documents state Linville admitted none of the pills were prescribed to him. A secondary search of the vehicle produced a small baggie of a crystal substance that tested positive for methamphetamine.

Linville was arrested for four counts of possession of a controlled substance.

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Drunk driver accused of hitting snow grader in Beatrice during blizzard

A drunk driver is accused of crashing into a motor grader that was cleaning the streets of Beatrice early Sunday during a snow storm.

Just after 1 a.m. Sunday, Beatrice police were dispatched to the 700 block of South Fourth Street where a city employee reported that a car hit the grader he was operating.

Upon arrival, police found a blue Toyota stuck in the snow as a driver was trying to get it out.

Police contacted the driver, identified as 48 year old Terry A. Collins, who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. Arrest documents state Collins had slurred speech, a hazy look and that the car smelled like alcohol.

A bottle of Crown Royal was on the passenger side floorboard, and Collins allegedly told police he had been drinking that evening.

A breath test revealed an alcohol level of .158, while a later test showed a level of .169, more than double the legal driving limit of .08.

Marijuana and a pipe were also found inside the vehicle.

Beatrice street superintendent Jason Moore said the car hit the motor grader's tire and that no damage was done to it.

Arrest documents state Collins told police he didn’t drink inside the vehicle, he “maybe” remembered hitting the vehicle and that he was not intoxicated at the time of contact in his vehicle.

He was placed under arrest for driving under the influence with an alcohol level above .15, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and an open container violation.