School Adds Introduction to Engineering Course

Next year, the school is introducing a new course, Introduction to Engineering Design, which aims to educate students in a wide scope of basic engineering concepts, centralized around virtual 3-D design. This future elective will be the starting course for a full three-year curriculum that serves as a preview of various engineering majors, such as computer-integrated manufacturing, digital electronics, aerospace, civil and architectural engineering.

“We feel there’s a need and demand for this kind of course, to move [this field] forward,” math teacher Teresa Dunlap said. “For me it’s an exciting time, to be able to offer this.”

Because the class is the first of its kind at the school, the school will only offer the first-year introductory course, titled Introduction to Engineering Design. In the next three years, however, the school plans to advance this program by adding subsequent levels as instructors Teresa Dunlap and JeanneYu receive training each summer.

  These additional levels will include the second year’s Principles of Engineering where students explore a broad range of engineering topics to develop skills in problem solving research and design, as well as learn how to communicate and present their findings. This second year will have a significantly more hands-on approach than the first year, using heavy-duty equipment that will give students an authentic experience working with such tools. Experiments and tests will put student skills and knowledge to use in a physical environment.

For the third year, students will have the opportunity to choose a specialized course for further immersion in a field of their choice. The third-year offerings will likely be determined by the interests of second-year students, due to the limited staff available. Many courses in different majors would complicate funding and resource distribution greatly, since each of these different fields would require their own specialized equipment, software and devices that are specific to the subject.

A fourth year that is a capstone course may also be added, but as of the press deadline, the math and science departments are still ironing out the details.

The Introduction to Engineering class is the brainchild of a national nonprofit organization called “Project Lead the Way” (PLTW). The program aims to capture students’ interest in engineering, giving them the opportunity to learn through hands-on projects in which they identify problems and find their own unique solutions instead of learning in a theoretical right-or-wrong learning environment. The program is supported by multiple Fortune 500 business leaders, who recognize the importance of a program that will encourage students to get into STEM-related fields.

Over 5,000 elementary, middle and high schools across all 50 states have implemented the program’s classes into their curriculum, including local high schools such as Gunn, Fremont, San Ramon and Saratoga. Other less-privileged schools are also targeted by PLTW, where enrollment in STEM AP classes, college entrance rates and standardized testing scores have risen as a result. Toppenish High School, where 100% of the student body qualifies to receive free or discounted school lunches, has seen enrollment in Pre-Calculus classes increase by 226 percent.

The UC board has accredited the class with A-G elective credit, meaning that the class does not meet A-G science requirements.  Students in the class will mainly work with Autodesk Inventor software to practice computer-aided design (CAD) disciplines.