Engineering students learn through experimentation

Students enrolled in McNick’s Intro to Engineering class have performed a series of hands-on projects throughout the past semester. These projects are designed to immerse and expose the students to the numerous types of engineering.

“At this point in time there are 72 recognized major degrees in engineering and a ton of subspecialties. [The class] is to get an idea of what’s out there, what your career could be with that, and what your education requirements are,” said Intro to Engineering instructor Jolene Esz.

Currently the class is working on an architectural engineering project. The students must construct an earthquake-resistant structure using only straws and tape. Not only must the buildings be able to support weight, but their rigidity will be tested by a platform that vibrates and thus simulates an earthquake.

Among the projects done by the class in the past was the “Ship the Chip” project, an exercise in manufacturing engineering. Students had to create a package that would effectively be able to hold a Pringles chip while also limiting the box’s weight and volume.

“This was my favorite project because of how much thinking and problem-solving we had to do to make our box as indestructible and as safe as possible,” said junior Luke Guessford.

The packages were shipped out and later mailed back to the school, where the chips had to be intact when unwrapped. The students’ grades depended on the condition of the chip when it was unwrapped as well as the weight and volume of their designed package.

Students also performed a project focused on User-Centered Design, in which they were tasked with choosing a set of tables most appropriate for replacing the old tables in Esz’s room. The class considered various factors including the displacement of the old and new tables. In the process of ordering and constructing the new tables, students even realized that the floor in Esz’s room is uneven.

“[The User-Centered Design Project] was a really cool project because we were putting our engineering skills to a real world use,” said junior Sami Moser.

In another project, students constructed cardboard tables built to support a stack of textbooks.

The class explored other topics such as electrical and computer engineering with projects earlier in the year.

With the semester drawing to a close, students reflected on some of the skills that they learned from the course.

“Being in engineering has taught me to be creative and learn how to cope with my mistakes. It has also helped me to pay attention to detail, work as a team, and gain leadership and management skills,” Moser said.

Senior Zach Woodke agreed. “[I learned] teamwork, because we had teams of two or three and we had to learn to create one single idea from all the different ideas.”

Problem-solving was another skill important commonly mentioned by students.

“In engineering class, you run into a lot of problems with what you’re designing and creating, and you need to be able to figure out what’s going wrong and then be able to fix it,” Guessford said.

“If you know you would like to go into engineering or are even just considering it, [the class] is a great way to let you have a sort of “hands on” experience in many of the different fields of Engineering to help you decide which, if any, is the right field for you.”

Students in McNick’s Intro to Engineering Class work to configure a table during the User-Centered Design Project. The class performed a variety of projects focusing on different types of engineering throughout the semester. (Picture from the Nov 30 McNicholas High School Newsletter)

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