Engineering 101 is no longer a college course — at least not at Newton High School.


Engineering 101 is no longer a college course — at least not at Newton High School.

NHS has joined with other high schools and a network of colleges for its first year of Project Lead the Way.

The project is designed to prepare students who are interested in pursuing careers in engineering build basic skills while still in high school.

Brian Rickard, teacher for the project at NHS, said the non-profit program was created in 1998 because of a concern about the dropout rate among engineering students in college. At that time, about 40 percent of freshman engineering majors did not make it to their sophomore year.

Since its inception, 3,300 high schools and middle schools have joined the project that’s mission is to help students learn innovation and design using math, science and technology, Rickard said.

The students can earn college engineering credits for the high school classes they take at institutions across the country, including Wichita State University in Kansas.

This year, Rickard is teaching Introduction to Engineering. Thirty-five students are enrolled in the course.

As their first project, students had to design puzzle cubes.

They learned about variations in standardized pieces by measuring and doing a statistical analysis on the wooden pieces for the cubes.

They used computers to design models of the cubes before they were constructed. The students were limited to five pieces of three-quarter- inch cubes.

Once the cubes were constructed, the students took turns attempting to assemble their classmates’ cubes.

“I think it is fun for the kids. I think it is fun because it is action based,” Rickard said. “We are always working with something.”

Dilan Winter, NHS sophomore, is taking Rickard’s engineering course because he wants to study aerospace engineering.

He said he took traditional drafting but said he thought the engineering class was more suited for the career he is pursuing.

“I think it is kind of fun,” Winter said. “It is more challenging than anything we did in drafting.”

Students will work on a reverse design project during the spring semester. They will pick a product, take it apart and redesign it with an improvement.

Rickard said the hands-on nature of the curriculum gives the students purpose to their learning and reinforces concepts they are learning in other classes.

The curriculum is matched with math, science and language-arts standards, students will need to pass standardized tests.

Rickard said he wants more for his students.

“I want kids to be problem solvers,” Rickard said. “I want them to have life skills and be able to understand how something works and design and solve with science and technology skills. I think the skills will be really beneficial for the future if they go on into engineering.

Bryce Staley, NHS junior, is not looking at a college degree in drafting but a future in construction contracting.

He hopes the course will help him understand design and read blue prints.

“I like the class because it is not pressured. You do everything laid back. The projects you do are fun. In the class, you don’t just sit there and do book work.”

The school is working toward accreditation in the Lead the Way program, and if the engineering program continues to have good enrollment numbers, next year, Principles in Engineering will be added.