Students forge future technologiesElective classes promote science, engineering and technology
Electric cars, human organs that can be made as easily as a document can be printed, and a natural gas powered cell that will supply electricity to homes are all next generation technologies that Washington High School students explore as part of Project Lead the Way.
According to instructor Jeff Richard, the high school’s physics teacher, technology will play a strong role in the future work of today’s students and many teachers are working to make sure that WHS students stay on top of things.
“We got started when Mr. [former principal Shane] Ehresman was here,” Richard said. “He went to a conference and he said, ‘I want this for our school.’”
The point of the project is to introduce students to the beginnings of the study of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Richard said that the project started in New York. Due to grants available from foundations, each school that starts the program is eligible for a $50,000 grant.
On Monday, a group of teachers attended a Project Lead the Way conference in Altoona. At the conference, Richard learned that Toyota is starting its own college. At the college, he said, students will learn about technology in the morning and go out and use it in the afternoon. He said Toyota was saying the people in manufacturing weren’t technolo-gically savvy enough for the modern field.
Richard said there are four courses at the high school that prepare students for the future study of technology. The first, he said, is introduction to engineering design. He said the class mostly focuses on designing things. He said that much of the designing is done on computer in a 3D format.
The second class is principles of engineering. He said that the class work transitions from designing things to building them. As Richard spoke, his classroom contained many everyday items that could be used to fabricate things that students were able to design.
Digital engineering is the third class of the series. Richard said that the focus is electronics. Students design circuit boards, solder components onto the boards and create their own electronic device.
“In any situation, the students can write a computer program that will do it, but they can also design it with hardware,” he said.
In a trophy case on the second floor of the high school, a remote-controlled car and an AM/FM radio, both designed and built by students, are on display. Richard also recently got a 3D printer that can be used to copy objects.
The fourth Project Lead the Way class deals with bioengineering. Biology teacher Elise Werth teaches that class. Richard said that it teaches such things as fingerprinting, enzymes, bacteria and some crime-scene investigation techniques such as blood splatters.
“The latest thing is that you can print a kidney,” Richard said. “They have also printed a heart.”
He said that modern experiments in this kind of thing are studied in the class, but not done. The technology is still in its infancy, but Richard said scientists are experimenting with devices similar to a dot matrix printer that uses biological material instead of ink to print organs specific for the patient. He said that anti-rejection drugs would not be needed.
He said physics courses also involve STEM. He said students have to design and build machines for various tasks.
Richard said that Hurricane Sandy is an example of the need for technology in society. He said that electrical wiring should not be above-ground and said this is something many companies are experimenting with.
He said that the STEM teachers tell students that people will need clean water, food and power for everyone in the world by 2050. He also said that transportation will be important.
The classes are popular among students, Richard said. Because they are electives, he said that sometimes students have a hard time scheduling them. He is certain the classes will continue at Washington High School.
“It’s very strong,” he said. “I‘ve had students come from WACO and take classes. We already have agreements with other schools for these classes.”