Students forge STEM pathways through Engineer Your World

October 26, 2016

 Langham Creek seniors Alicia Benavides and Robert Jio explain their engineering project to community member Lesia Linton during a symposium at the school on Oct. 21.
Langham Creek seniors Alicia Benavides and Robert Jio explain their engineering project to community member Lesia Linton during a symposium at the school on Oct. 21.

Oct. 26, 2016—CFISD high school students in engineering design and problem solving classes wrapped up their first design challenge of the school year last week, through the University of Texas’ UTeach Engineering curriculum program, Engineer Your World.

Engineer Your World is made possible through a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. The innovative, yearlong high school course is for students who want to learn about engineering and its role in shaping the world. The 2016-2017 school year marks the fourth year for the course to be offered.

 Langham Creek seniors Tony Lu and Ali Mohammed describe their pinhole camera engineering project for Marie Girardot, recruitment support specialist for Engineer Your World at the University of Texas—Austin.
Langham Creek seniors Tony Lu and Ali Mohammed describe their pinhole camera engineering project for Marie Girardot, recruitment support specialist for Engineer Your World at the University of Texas—Austin.

In the initial design challenge, The Evolution of Imagery, students were tasked with building a pinhole camera for an arts program that works with disabled individuals with limited hand dexterity.

Langham Creek High School students in Marissa Logrono’s three class periods presented their designs in a symposium for professional engineers, parents and community members on Oct. 21.

“We had more engineers here than we’ve had in a long time,” Logrono said. “As I’ve seen, students are rising to the occasion. They’ve been able to talk about how the process became a product, how the product will work for the customer and how that becomes a cycle.”

Representatives from Schneider Electric meet Langham Creek seniors José Hernandez and Nic Gamez before hearing their engineering design presentation on Oct. 21 at the school.
Representatives from Schneider Electric meet Langham Creek seniors José Hernandez and Nic Gamez before hearing their engineering design presentation on Oct. 21 at the school. 

Professionals from KBR, Flotek, Schneider Electric and Jill Smith Realty were among the visitors who asked questions to students after they presented their design: a reusable pinhole camera for an art camp that services people with disabilities. ‘

“I’ve enjoyed the varying designs and hearing the spontaneity of taking very crude materials and doing something with them while having the customer in mind,” said Carl Afton, technical service manager for Flotek. “It’s a good learning experience, and it gives them a good appreciation of science and engineering.”

Engineer Your World curriculum is in about 165 schools across the country including all CFISD high schools, and is offered with a dual enrollment option so students can earn three engineering elective credits at UT system schools. Marie Girardot, recruitment support specialist for the program, visited the Langham Creek symposium to see some of the seeds begin taking shape for potential careers.

Dr. Claire Phillips, dean of the biology department at Lone Star College—CyFair, interacts with student presenters Dorian Zarate, left, and Michael Longpre at an Engineer Your World symposium at Langham Creek on Oct. 21.
Dr. Claire Phillips, dean of the biology department at Lone Star College—CyFair, interacts with student presenters Dorian Zarate, left, and Michael Longpre at an Engineer Your World symposium at Langham Creek on Oct. 21. 

“It definitely starts preparing students to get into that engineering thought process,” she said. “Throughout this course they’re developing these engineering habits of mind, how engineers think and how they would go about solving problems in the real world. That’s going to help them get the extra creativity and critical thinking skills they’ll need in engineering classes in college.”

Senior Rouie David said the project is a good stepping stone for a potential career in the industry.

“The big thing about this is not just what to do and how to do it, but how to learn from your mistakes,” he said. “We made a lot of mistakes but we made a lot of changes that benefited the final design.”

Langham Creek seniors Carrington Matthews and Tiana Smith deliver their engineering design presentation to Jill Smith of Jill Smith Realty.
Langham Creek seniors Carrington Matthews and Tiana Smith deliver their engineering design presentation to Jill Smith of Jill Smith Realty. 

According to at least one professional engineer, the future of the industry is in good hands.

“I think a project like this could help a student say, ‘This is neat, I want to be an engineer,’ or ‘I don’t think I really like engineering.’ It makes their parents a lot happier when they go to pursue their undergrad,” Afton said. “We want to make sure there’s going to be people who take our jobs when we retire. You keep hearing that there’s going to be a deficit of STEM professionals, but a program like this is great for getting them exposed to that.”

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