by Randall Hatfield, staff writer

JANUARY 2022  — The Bio-Med Science Academy toy machine has been present for much of the school’s history. Many students have had the opportunity to pass by the small, red dispenser, but for most of its lifetime, the machine has remained empty. A paper sign, formerly attached to its front face, explained that it was meant to hold student-made toys, coming sometime in the future. Now, for the first time in its long history, a new seventh-grade project has breathed new life into the toy machine.

During the middle of December, many students noticed that the machine had new branding and was filled with multicolored plastic capsules that students could now purchase for fifty cents.

The toys in the installation were a part of a project by the seventh-graders. The person behind the project is Ms. Hajnal Eppley, the seventh-grade tech teacher. 

“I think in my first week at Bio-Med, I saw [the toy machine], and I saw that it was empty and thought it was really cool that it existed,” Eppley said. At the time, the machine had still been inactive, leftover from a former fundraiser that was never fully realized. An opportunity to revitalize it had appeared.

Eppley and her classes began planning out their toys several months ago, in order to ensure that there would be no issues with installation. “It took us a little while to get some of the logistics of getting the capsules into the machine, but we worked on that [from] mid to late October,” said Eppley. This time allowed students to create the toys that would eventually be sold inside.

Each of the toy machine’s capsules contains one temporary tattoo. These tattoos are student designed, with each one representing a specific memory that its creator wanted to illustrate. The capsules also contain a paper card with a written description of the tattoo, as well as what it represents.

“The seventh-graders are the newest to Bio-Med, and also the youngest,” Eppley said. “I think the goal is just to help other people in Bio-Med get their names and get to know them a little bit.”

Many students have been seen interacting with the machine since its installation.

“I definitely was surprised at how the first day that I put things into, people were already taking stuff and using it,” Eppley said, “I hadn’t even had a chance to print out the sign to put on it yet. It feels good that this is generating some interest.”

Pictured is the toy machine in its current location, outside the MakerSpace in the new building. The small basket nearby is meant to be a place for students to return their empty capsules for reuse. Photo by Randall Hatfield.

An integral part of helping the project succeed was finding a way to use the funds from each fifty-cent purchase. Two seventh-grade students had an idea to put the money towards the Portage County Animal Protective League. According to its website, the Portage APL is a local nonprofit organization that works to improve animal welfare and responsible pet ownership.

These seventh-grade students, Ava Edson and Evelyn Fleck, spoke about their idea for the fundraiser.

“One day we were sitting in the hallway and we just came up with the idea, like ‘Hey, what [if] around Christmas time we did some kind of fundraiser for dogs in shelters who aren’t getting the proper care [that] they need,’” Edson said.

Their idea began to take shape, aided by some of Fleck’s past fundraising experience.

“In fifth grade, I hosted a really big food drive, and I thought we could do something like that again,” Fleck said. “We thought of a different plan, which was a food drive for dogs.”

For students who may have missed the chance to support the installation’s cause, Eppley stated that there may be other projects involving the toy machine in the future. Some possible ideas proposed include using the school’s 3D printers or laser engravers to create new products for sale. 

While the toy machine initially originated as an incomplete project, it has grown into a new way for students to get to know each other, express themselves, and give back to the community. As time passes, it is likely to continue developing new projects, and serve as a way to unify the Bio-Med student body for years to come.

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