To Be, Rather Than to Seem

Engineering Explores Alternative Fuel Sources

At the beginning of last year, the Academy introduced an Engineering Program to its course offerings, utilizing curriculum from Project Lead the Way. Since then, we have been offering students diverse opportunities to make connections between the physical and virtual world through the use of technology on a daily basis.

A program that began with one course, Introduction to Engineering, has quickly expanded to include Principals of Engineering and AP Computer Science Principals. Now, along with the curriculum offered by PLTW, students have the opportunity to earn an Academy STEM designation on their diplomas upon graduation.

Also added to the program this summer was an engineering and technology internship component, where students partner up with industry professionals and learn about what it truly means to be an engineer. Whether they are coding apps in computer science or designing puzzle cubes in engineering, students are gaining hands on experience in the world of STEM, providing them with the necessary skills to be the next generation of female scientists and engineers.

Launched at the start of the 2018-2019 school year, the Principals of Engineering class allows students to explore a broad range of engineering topics including mechanisms, strength of structure and materials, and automation. The girls then apply what they know to take on different design challenges.

This week, students were tasked with designing cars that run on alternative fuel sources! The girls worked in teams to power a small vehicle using different types of power sources: a solar panel, a fuel cell, and a battery. Using the electricity from the solar module, they separated hydrogen from oxygen, harnessed the hydrogen, and then used the hydrogen as fuel to propel the cars forward!

The students had to roll with the punches to propel their vehicles, and they definitely hit some bumps along the way! Problem solving is a key component of any engineering course. When the students were having trouble figuring out why their completed cars were at a standstill, they collaborated to re-read instructions, move around the car parts, and check wiring connections until they came to the conclusion that one of their components was not charged!

It’s projects like these that allow our students to get hands on experience in the world of engineering. They empower students to step into the role of an engineer, adopt a problem-solving mindset, and make the leap from dreamers to doers. The program’s courses engage students in compelling, real-world challenges that help them become better collaborators and thinkers.

“They can make mistakes. They can get their hands dirty. The idea that they have the opportunity to problem solve and be wrong is really important,” says engineering teacher Anne Wynn. 

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