Ironman project a feat of creativity, critical thinking for PCMS students

Mr. Tascio's seventh- and eighth-grade Studio Art students have been planning and constructing Ironman since last year

In the corner of Jeff Tascio’s classroom stands a towering art project that has consumed his students’ imagination and much of their teacher’s creative energies.

It’s a super project, heroic in a way, but it hasn’t come together easily. When it’s done, though, it’ll be, well, a marvel.

“It’s a hands-on project,” said eighth-grader Sofia Greco.

Calling it hands-on is a touch ironic given that the project, a statuesque, larger-than-life Ironman in Port Chester Ram blue, only had one arm on this day. A detached blue hand reminiscent of the Terminator sat off to the side, infinity stones in each knuckle - Infinity War being a more relevant cultural reference.

Sofia grabbed the loose paw and plugged it into an outlet, lighting up the stones like an LED rainbow. 

“It’s been interesting to see the steps come together as we progress,” she said.

Mr. Tascio said the project dates back to last school year but took a turn in concept in September. His Studio Art students, a mix of 7th and 8th graders, have contributed extensively to it, including several who are in their second year in the class. 

Besides the missing limb, the boots on both feet were a work in progress, and the iconic chest plate - damaged in a mishap – showed signs of recent repair. But Ironman’s eyes light up in a glowing blue that is accentuated by white paper students thought to position behind the lenses to diffuse the light.

Eighth-grader Isaac Sam boasted that he was the model for the figure. Given his height and build, it’s plausible. People are going to be surprised when they see it, Isaac said, even if they can’t appreciate all the work that has gone into it. 

There are aspects of art, engineering and STEM concepts at play throughout this project. 

This Ironman can’t walk, let alone fly, but it is wired to light up via LEDs and USB connections. 

It would have been an epic site for it to soar from the sky across the campus on Ram Pride Day or merely to march onto the quad under its own power and artificial intelligence. This is middle school art class, though, not Elon Musk’s personal workshop. The feats students are achieving are impressive ones of critical thinking and creativity.

Mr. Tascio isn’t spoon-feeding next steps, either. Students are all in on the planning and execution.

Nicky Villanova, a seventh-grader, has fabricated parts on his home 3-D printer.

“I didn’t know that much about 3-D printing, how much went into it,” Nicky said. “I knew the expense was one big thing.”

When the chest plate fell and broke, it was an example of the challenges of this life-sized endeavor. Mr. Tascio said his heart stopped when the piece hit the floor. Putting it back in place was just one more problem to solve collaboratively. 

As top-secret as a group project can be, he is eager to unveil his students’ work. If he can get it up on wheels somehow, there’s even a shot to take Ironman on a victory lap.

“There’s an elevator,” Mr. Tascio said with a laugh, “so that should be helpful.”