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November 16, 2020
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November 23, 2020

Cardinal Middle School, Ohio

Please join us in congratulating NC3’s November 2020 School on the Rise winner, Cardinal Middle School

Located in rural Middlefield, Ohio, Cardinal Middle School is paving the way for innovation and technology within their community with the help of their PhabLab by Palmer Hamilton. With every student passing through this program, Cardinal Middle School has issued nearly 300 certifications in just two years! As one of NC3’s premier Junior High Schools, Cardinal Middle School is ahead of the curve when it comes to preparing students for a career in the technical fields. 

Mandi Matchinga, Cardinal Middle School’s Technology Teacher, explains some of the reasons why they decided to implement a PhabLab into their school’s academic repertoire. She states, “Our school is located in a very rural Amish community and a lot of the students don’t continue school after 8th grade. We wanted our Amish students to have the exposure to engineering and design before they leave so they can have those skills and certifications when they enter the workforce. For our other students, they have the option to go to a technical high school, so we wanted to expose them to the PhabLab so they can make an educated decision on what avenue they want to continue within high school.”

Mandi expands on that by describing how earning Dremel and Tormach Certifications can have an incredibly positive impact on the lives of students. She explains,

Earning these certifications at such an early age is a great starting point. There’s such a sense of pride and self-accomplishment that comes with earning certifications. The students can then take that and start expanding their ideas and imagination to apply their knowledge to other parts of their lives.

This year, in particular, Cardinal Middle School students are learning how their knowledge can be applied to the real world! Mandi says, “I’ve always had this teaching philosophy that we want to help solve real problems and we create projects that are really applicable to real life, so this was a perfect fit and it’s been great!” She continues, 

Our students are so excited about having a PhabLab at school. We’ve been doing a lot of projects that they can use outside of school. We’ve been creating our own masks and 3D printing ear savers for masks. They love making their own things and really feeling like they’re doing something important.

Providing new and exciting possibilities to the students at Cardinal Middle School has had a positive impact on their future choices. Mandi says, “Being exposed to this type of technology at a young age has opened a whole new world of opportunities for our students. These are things that they’ve never considered as job possibilities before. In our community, the options are either farming or for anything else, you need to go to college. For our students, that’s really changing when they come in here and see how many options they really have.”

Whether Cardinal Middle School students continue on to high school or join the workforce within the local Amish community, they have been set up for success in any path they choose! The skills and knowledge they’ve gained from earning NC3 Certifications can be applied to after school jobs or summer internships that might not have been a recognizable option before. Mandi is especially proud of Cardinal Middle School’s progressive Administration! She says,

The vision of our administration to look at students and see important life skills and important life decisions is so wonderful because it’s time to start doing that more in middle school. Exposing students to all kinds of different jobs and opportunities at an early age is so important because a lot of these decisions about what path to take starts in 9th grade. I love that our administration has the foresight to empower these kids to do adult things and do them well.

Mandi also mentions how beneficial the partnership with NC3 and Palmer Hamilton has been to the success of their program! She states, “I was a math teacher before joining this program so I had zero experience myself with any of these certifications at the start. Train-the-Trainer events have been awesome and our support from Palmer Hamilton has been awesome. Really, anything I need, everyone from NC3 and Palmer Hamilton have been great with helping me out. I felt very prepared after going through Train-the-Trainer.”

So what’s next for Cardinal Middle School’s PhabLab? Mandi has a few ideas! She says, “A couple of goals we want to accomplish long-term are that we want to be able to open the lab up to the public. We live kind of in the middle of nowhere and we want to be able to have a time where kids or community members can come in and learn how to use the equipment. We’re even thinking of having our students showcase the equipment and explain how to make different things.” She adds, “We would also love to make the program more self-sustaining. The thing with the lab is that we’re always needing vinyl or wood so we’re trying to think of what we could make and possibly sell to keep us in good standing with supplies. And in that way, we would be able to work with and improve our community and use our knowledge for good.”

Cardinal Middle School has displayed exceptional strides in improving the lives of its students and the prosperity of the surrounding community. NC3 is honored to have this school within our network. Congratulations to everyone at Cardinal Middle School for becoming NC3’s November 2020 School on the Rise! We look forward to your growing success in the future! 

Stay tuned for our next School on the Rise recipient in January 2021!

Questions about NC3’s School on the Rise? Please contact Erika Staackmann, Customer Success Coordinator, 847.533.6985,

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