Future innovators work hard in the classroom
February 15, 2017
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Building bridges. Constructing homes. Simulating models for flight. Inventions and innovations run students’ creativity in the engineering program.
Steven Boots, who teaches Civil Engineering and Architecture and Design, recently gave his students an assignment to create their dream home.
“We did a financial analysis on what kind of house they could design and build,” Boots said. “It was revealing to see the amount of money it takes to pay for one’s dream home. In the students’ first dream home, the size wasn’t what they thought it was going to be. It was cool though, because they were working around constraints they weren’t aware of before.”
Dustin Smerek, who teaches Aerospace Engineering and Principles of Engineering is also working with his students on big projects. Smerek’s principles class is building trust bridges, while his aerospace class is constructing an engine mount in a program called Inventor.
“We are doing a stress analysis on it,” senior Conner Baird said. “We can simulate a load on a model we made, and we can see the metal bending to the simulation.”
Originally, Smerek taught physics before switching to an engineering teacher.
“I had an interesting journey,” Smerek said. “I have always been interested in mechanical things, solving problems and how things worked. Engineering is applied sciences in a lot of ways, so this was right up my alley. I enjoy seeing how all the concepts from physics can be applied and how my students enjoy it.”
Along with engineering, the school also has a robotics program. One student in the program is junior Cyrille Davidson, who took the program as an elective course.
“I joined it randomly during my freshman year,” she said. “I started to enjoy it, and thought to myself, ‘I could do this.’”
In robotics class, students learn to build using a Lego set. They increase the motions and build up each project.
“The most interesting thing about this program is getting complex problems and having to solve them,” Davidson said. “You have to figure out a way around any complications.”
As Davidson looks towards the future, she plans to use the skills she has learned in robotics to pursue a career in engineering.
“I thought it would be pretty cool,” Davidson said. “Not only am I a female and a minority, but I want to represent that, and it’s a lot of fun to do. There are less women minorities out there, so I can try to be leader in some way.”
Whether man or woman, engineering is for those who want to know how things work and enjoy solving problems.
“Students who want to be in my class are interested in solving problems,” Smerek said. “They are interested in the idea of creating something new that nobody has created before. I get to see creativity in each student coming out and have them work together. That is something that is unique to engineering.”