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Students learn engineering skills

Intro to Engineering class gives students the opportunity to learn basic engineering concepts by applying them to real life problems. This year, the first semester class worked to solve a problem with the Heliponix GroPod unit in Mrs. Laura Swessel’s classroom.

Mrs. Laura Swessel shows parents who attended their students’ final presentation one of the reservoirs designed by the Intro to Engineering students.

Her hydroponic unit is a prototype and has a flaw in the design that causes intermittent water leakage and failure of the unit. The bottom drawer contains a tub of water from which water is fed to the plants in the unit. But if care is not taken when closing the drawer, the water can splash out and lead to the plants drying out and dying. So the Intro to Engineering class was assigned to design new water reservoirs.

The students used programs such as tinkercad and a 3D printer to complete their project. They said they enjoyed being able to develop a practical solution instead of simply studying a hypothetical situation.

“It didn’t feel like class sometimes,” senior Sterling Huber said, noting how they were able to contact the unit’s inventors and discuss ideas with them.

The groups did hit snags along the way and had to use the engineering method to address and solve the problem. For example, one group found the cap they created with the 3D printer was the wrong size and had to try again. Another group didn’t make sure the printer was started in time in order for it to complete the part for their final presentation.

Senior Jacob Sullivan, who was on a team with senior Olivia McCurdy and juniors Jackson Sanders and Michael Vaughn, said he liked the class and will find it useful if he decides to major in engineering in college. He is undecided right now and is hoping to attend Purdue University or Butler University. Even if engineering isn’t his major, the problem-solving skills he learned can be carried forward even beyond college.

“It helps you formulate ideas and work with other group members,” Jacob said.

Senior Alex Perkinson, who was in a group with Sterling and senior Ryan Drury, had been planning to major in audio production and engineering at Indiana University or Middle Tennessee State University – or business at Bellarmine University. Taking the class helped him see that engineering would be a good fit, he said.

“It helped me get in the mindset of making things and understanding the process rather than just winging it,” Alex said.

Sterling said he still is unsure if he will major in engineering and has applied to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the University of Louisville as well as the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University-Bloomington. But if he does choose engineering, he has received a strong foundation.

“It was a great experience,” Sterling said. “It was a great way to collaborate with each other.”

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