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Jesuit Engineering

Jesuit Engineering

The students in Jesuit High School’s new engineering program have programmed the software and set the 3D printer to precise specifications.

For a few hours, the printer goes to work, humming away in exacting 3D patterns, making an identical match to what they created on their iPads.

Via the special software for the 3D printer, the budding engineers take the leap from concept to reality. Some are simple yet highly useful items, such as plastic clips that affix to their iPads and hold pens and pencils. Other are more creatively oriented, such as taking the iconic Jesuit Tiger head spirit logo and adding an imposing third dimension to it.

“We will bring in an item from home, deconstruct it, then assemble it on the application and actually print it using the 3D printer,” said engineering student Gentry Burks ’19, who along with his classmates can become certified in the AutoDesk Inventor 3D modeling software.

This new merger of technology and student capability provides a little glimpse into the future of Jesuit engineering. Launched this fall with two sections of sophomore students taught by Lauren Hescheles, Jesuit engineering is a three-year program under the umbrella of the science department.

A product of the national emphasis on S.T.E.M. – science, technology, engineering, and math – Jesuit engineering operates in conjunction with Project Lead The Way, a national leader that provides curriculum and teacher training. (Click here to access Project Lead The Way’s high school engineering webpage.)

A summation of the engineering track at Jesuit:

Sophomore Year – Introduction to Engineering Design

  • Basics of engineering and technical sketching
  • 3D computer aided design and animation
  • Exploring the application of the engineering design process

Junior Year – Principles of Engineering

  • Application of physics and engineering
  • Exploration of mechanical systems through robotics
  • Experimentation with strength of structures

Senior Year – Engineering Design and Development

  • Identify and research real world challenges
  • Real world application of engineering principles
  • Creating and testing unique solutions to real world issues

The 43 sophomores registered this first year – which is 20% of the entire Class of 2019 – demonstrates the desire for an engineering program. And they are embracing it.

“The students are showing great initiative to comprehend the new concepts presented,” Hescheles said. “They are eager to be involved, and they have been really engaged.”

A peek inside the classroom one day reveals the Intro to Engineering Design class drawing 3D images they created on their iPads. Drafting paper, rulers, pencils – erasing and re-drawing, always thinking and re-evaluating, always precise.

“A challenging part of the course is the idea of viewing (an object) from different faces,’’ said Reece Tappan ’19 (Tappan is at right in the homepage photo, behind Burks; at left is Miguel Coste '19). “To think of the faces of that object, determine what's the front face, the side face, and the top face.

“We then sketch the faces, and make sure they are to scale (usually 1:1 scale, actual size). We have already covered isometric and oblique pictorials, and we have been working on line dimensions, learning how to apply dimensioning to our sketches.”

These basic concepts of engineering are establishing the foundation of the program.

“The challenge is learning how to conceptualize an object the student cannot physically hold,” Hescheles said. “Students struggle the most with this aspect of the course, but once they get it down, they grow and excel.”

One day in mid-October, Hescheles greets her students as they walk in with an “Instant Challenge.” On the random, occasional Instant Challenge days, the students are given an immediate problem to solve before the end of that period, one that requires creative and practical thinking, and collaboration.

On this day, the assignment is called “Cable Cars.” Using only the materials provided, students design and build a device, or “vehicle,” to move a small figure as far as possible across the room on fishing line stretched horizontally.

The materials? A sheet of cardstock, 2 tongue depressors, 2 paper clips, 2 rubber bands, a straw, a toilet paper roll, a small balloon, 12 in. of string, 6 in. of masking tape, a small plastic cube to transport, and scissors (as a tool only).

Each group had to create a transportation vehicle for a "person" (represented by the plastic cube) and see whose could travel the farthest on the “cable” (fishing line), while keeping the person safe inside the vehicle.

There’s a palpable rise in the energy in Faber Hall as the students break off into clusters of three and begin attacking the task. Brainstorming, building, re-thinking, and adjusting. Then, they have a one-minute period to test, and then five minutes to redesign and make revisions before a final attempt.

The air-filled balloon, when the air is released, provides the thrust as the vehicles then slide along the fishing line. Most of the vehicle designs this day have the straw slid over the fishing line, and taped to the toilet paper roll, which is protecting the “person” inside it, and is somehow connected to the balloon.

A couple of the initial attempts are duds, moving just a foot or two. Others travel several feet. A few break the 12-foot barrier Hescheles established as the goal. The best result came from the team of Tommy Thiel ’19, Don Freund ’19, and Burks, who made a vehicle that traveled 19.5 feet.

Engineering is defined as “the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures.” The relatively quick and simple tasks Hescheles assigns on Instant Challenge days are harbingers of much more complex projects in the future of Jesuit engineering, when students will design and build engines, machines, and structures.

“I know next year we will be working more with electronics and mechanics, and I am looking forward to that,” Tappan said.

Affordable housing design. Biofuel production. App development. These are all hands-on, real world challenges Jesuit engineering students will face in the coming years.

The engineering program also will foster more students interested in pursuing engineering careers, as well as related pursuits such as physics, building construction, computer science, architecture, and software design.

When these sophomores graduate in 2019 as the first to complete the program, they will have a healthy head start to college. Jesuit alums entering the demanding engineering majors will have a much stronger foundation on which to build their careers, having developed transportable skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and communication, in addition gaining vast, specific engineering knowledge.

“I want to be an engineer when I’m older, so I was very excited to sign up,” Burks said. “I’m really hoping this will help me get into a school (that specializes in engineering) and help me pursue this career path.”

The students, and Hescheles, are excited about where the program is headed.

“This is just the beginning,” Hescheles said. “Later this year, and the next few years, we are going to be doing some amazing things in the engineering program.”

View a photo slideshow below of the Introduction to Engineering Design class in action this fall:


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