ff engineering, 9/28/12

Fairfield High School freshmen Jaime Villasenor, top left, Jide Gilfillian, lower left, Tramale Hughes and Nathan Messano, right, work on a lesson about compound gear trains during their Principles of Engineering class on Friday morning. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)


Fairfield students gain practical knowledge through engineering

By From page A1 | October 01, 2012

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield High School students like Zoë Finzel and Keyoni McNair are already preparing for a job in engineering.

Finzel and McNair, both sophomores, have a full workload with regular classes and extracurriculars. They decided last year to add even more to their schedules to beef up their resumes.

That’s when Fairfield High School added Project Lead the Way into its curriculum. The program, designed to encompass all four years of school, teaches engineering principles and biomedical sciences through hands-on activities and computer software.

Engineering teacher Elizabeth Veldsman introduced students to the subject with the “Principles of Engineering” course last year. The school added the next class in the program, “Introduction to Engineering,” this year.

Fairfield High will add two more courses to complete the curriculum; one can be a specialization class of their choice such as “Aerospace Engineering,” while the second, “Engineering Design and Development,” is designed for seniors or students completing the program.

Several other schools in the district have adopted a robotics program to introduce engineering, but no other high schools have a program similar to the one at Fairfield High, Veldsman said.

Students must apply to be a part of a class. While “Principles” takes place during regular school hours, “Introduction” is a zero period elective class, though it does fulfill University of California A-G requirements.

Designed for high school students, Finzel and McNair said the classes are a rigorous introduction into the world of engineering.

“You have to not mind missing sleep,” McNair said, laughing.

She and Finzel, along with 10 other classmates, completed the first engineering course and moved on to “Introduction to Engineering.” The focus of the course is the engineering design process, research and analysis, teamwork, global and human impacts and engineering standards and technical documentation.

They are learning mechanical drafting on Autodesk and practicing different design processes.

Veldsman said it isn’t always the students who are good at math and science who succeed in the program. One of her students, for example, is not strong in math but is a great designer.

Finzel and McNair can attest that students need more than math and science smarts to do well in the course. Engineers, they said, need creativity, persistence and, above all, endurance.

“There’s no set way of doing one thing,” Finzel said. “It is hard work . . . but you get practical knowledge.”

Students interested in engineering can also take part in the Fairfield High Robotics Club. For more information, Veldsman at [email protected] To learn more about Project Lead the Way, visit http://www.pltw.org.

Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San covers Rio Vista, features and general news for the Daily Republic. She received her bachelors of art degree from the University of Oregon.

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