Experimentation with science and technology outside Cedar Hill Elementary on the last day of summer school Thursday had the pleasant, smoky smell of lightly charred pine wood.
It wasn't clear if the wood being engraved by a laser printer in the mobile Sinquefield Invention Lab was actually pine, but the affair had the scent of a perfect campfire.
As students eagerly watched from above the device's transparent lid, the printer engraved small wooden coins with their names — a keepsake they got to take home.
Instead of ink sprayers moving back and forth as in a conventional office printer, this printer's laser swept across the wood and burned the design into it as a few small puffs of smoke rose. The laser is powerful enough to etch metal, glass and stone, said Kelsey Walker, district executive of the local Five Rivers District of the Boy Scouts.
The Invention Lab aboard a 24-foot trailer is owned by the Great Rivers Council of Boy Scouts. Walker said this occasion was the first time a public school in Jefferson City had incorporated one into its summer school programming.
"What really brought us together was the School Night to Join Scouting," she said of the event last year that "opened up more of a positive relationship" between the Scouts and the school district.
The mobile lab is the same sort that was at the Cub Scout camp at the Jefferson City Jaycees Fairgrounds a couple weeks ago.
For Cedar Hill librarian Sarah Rosslan, the chance for students to experience working even briefly with the laser printer and other high-tech equipment was a culmination of everything she'd been working with them on.
In summer school, she said, her students had worked with a marble run, Lego bricks and a couple of robots. They also got to see how a 3-D printer works, but they didn't get much hands-on experience with it.
Just seeing the science, technology, engineering and math equipment on the trailer will broaden their horizons and expose them to different activities, she said.
Every student enrolled in summer school at Cedar Hill had the chance to go onto the trailer — more than 100 students — except for those in preschool.
In addition to the two printers, the mobile lab also had a programmable embroidery machine and a box of simple circuit parts called "littleBits" some students worked on assembling while they waited their turn to get a wooden coin engraved by the laser printer.
Walker said the trailer will be part of the Back to School fair at South Elementary School later this summer, and it's hoped the trailer will travel around more.
"We're always open to touring more schools."
She said the next School Night to Join Scouting will be Sept. 7. Boy Scout and Girl Scout members will be at every elementary school.