An upcoming Engineering And Sustainable Energy Course will be available to LHS students next year. The program is being spearheaded by Mr. Jamie Dibbern, the LHS Science Department Chair, and Mrs. Dawn Striker, an LHS AP Physics teacher. “I think that a lot of students go into engineering from LHS, and actually, I don’t think [the students] know what it really means to be an engineer. So that’s what we are going to focus on for them to learn,” says Mrs. Striker. This new course seeks to address the absence of an engineering-learning opportunity at LHS. Engineering has grown to be an increasingly important profession in today’s society, especially in areas that focus on sustainable alternatives for energy in the interest of the planet.
The course will not be incorporating the traditional textbook-and-test style of teaching, but place, instead, a great emphasis on creativity, industriousness, and collaboration in projects, just like in the real world. “The new course is designed to do a little bit of physics, but also to bring the engineering and design process to our curriculum,” says Mr. Dibbern. “Students will actually start looking at the process of designing a product, the physics behind the product, and then bring it to completion.” Students will also be introduced to a variety of engineering and energy-based topics separated into two courses, the first including “what is meant by engineering, what drives new product development, engineering design, [and] reverse engineering,” says Mrs. Striker. The second course will focus on sustainable forms of energy including solar energy, hydroelectric energy, wind energy, and fuel cell technology.
According to Mrs. Striker, the driving factor behind this new course was the strong emphasis placed on traditional science courses, which has not left much room for students to be able to learn and acquire new skills from both engineering and sustainable energy –topics which are growing increasingly important. “I think that the portion of the class that’s going to talk about sustainable energy is very important for young people to focus on because fossil fuels are going away, and they ought to be going away. So [the next generation] is going to need to find ways to power all of the things that eat up electricity in sustainable ways in order to save the planet,” Mrs. Striker says. “We do a really good job here with science courses, but the technology/engineering part… We did not really have anything so we wanted to add that to our curriculum. We have students who are feeling a little bit apprehensive about physics, so we thought this might draw them in since [the course contains] some physics, but it’s not all physics,” says Mr. Dibbern. “At some point it might even include marketing your product.”
Since only two years of science are required to graduate, this upcoming course will be considered an elective despite containing aspects of “the foundational science courses: biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering,” says Mr. Dibbern. It should also be noted that the course should not be confused with the pre-existing Robotics Club at LHS, although there may come an opportunity to have the course and club collaborate together.
Since there is no formal educational material for the course, the course will blend together information acquired from the Ford Motor program, a free engineering program which Mrs. Striker has taught in another school system. The course will also be using new equipment such as the Arduino micro-chip board, electronic appliances to take apart and reassemble, and other apparatuses. The Arduino board in particular will “literally be the biggest addition [to the course],” says Mr. Dibbern. “Students will literally be able to program these things to do various projects. The Robotics Club uses one of the Arduino boards in one of their robots.”
Thoughts of the course have been discussed within the faculty for a few years and the rising importance of STEM classes seem to have influenced the decision for a new engineering and sustainable energy course. “I think we just decided to try it,” says Mr. Dibbern. “We did spend some time looking into what students may be interested in. [Based on the importance of STEM] we realized that we were a little lacking on the engineering part but our traditional science courses do not allow for too much hands-on engineering. There was a discussion with the superintendent and the principal to say ‘maybe now is the time to try this.’ So really it’s just after a couple of years of semi-planning and talking all coming together and also just deciding to try it and see what happens. There has also been some discussion with the Math Department in offering to upgrade their programming offerings as well. So we hope we can start reaching that [engineering] group of students.”