Students experience real world engineering

PLTW teacher Dirk Homewood was interviewed by KWWL about CFHS involvement in National Engineer’s Week. (Taylor Kainz photo)

Over 100 students currently enrolled in PLTW (Project Lead The Way) courses observed National Engineer’s Week during the third full week in February with PLTW teacher, Dirk Homewood.

“The purpose of National Engineers Week is to call attention to the contributions to society that engineers make. It is also a time for engineers to emphasize the importance of learning math, science and technical skill,” Homewood said.

PLTW classes are project-based, intending to supplement the curriculum taught in mathematics and science with a hands-on approach, and a majority of the learning is done in class.

“The expectations for these courses are the same as others at Cedar Falls High School — you get out of the class what you put into it,” Homewood said.

During the last week in February the entry level class focused on the design process using Computer-Aided-Design (CAD) to create many different designs such as a puzzle cube, miniature train, train cars and other student-generated ideas. The other PLTW course explored simple machines, trusses, robotics, hydraulics, computer programming, projectiles and other engineering related topics.

One four-person group created a pneumatic arm which uses compressed gas (in their case air) to extend and kick a ball into a goal.

Students who participated in National Engineer’s Week got the feel of how engineers work in everyday situations instead of just in the classroom atmosphere.

“The hands-on part really showed me how there is more to engineering than just what is on the computer. It was altogether a different experience from the normal,” junior Julie Doyle said.

Students like senior Patrick Sesker really enjoyed being a part of National Engineer’s Week.

“The best part of engineering week was having UNI professors bring out their portable ‘power tower.’ The power tower consists of multiple renewable energy sources. The tower is located on the NW side of the portable at CFHS and has both a wind turbine and a solar panel that create and send power to large batteries,” Sesker said. The professors came and explained how they utilize the power from the portable towers, all the possible careers in renewable energy, and what UNI has to offer in their engineering department.

A lot of knowledge came out during this week for the students who participated.

“I learned that the field of renewable energy is rapidly growing, and at the front of that growth are engineers. The pneumatic arm taught me that even basic pneumatics can be difficult to get to work together properly. If one part of the system didn’t release at the right time the function and performance of the arm was greatly affected,” Sesker said.

The supplies for these projects were supported by the Cedar Falls School District, but since the PLTW classes have expanded there has been more involvement from the university, community college and local companies.

The projects made during National Engineer’s Week will remain at the high school until other opportunities arise to utilize their resources.

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