Take a concept from design to prototype: That was the mission of Rob Corrigan's Applied Engineering class at Sisters High School. Last week the students presented their completed prototype of an economical automated ventilation system to regulate temperatures in a house.
"This class is kind of the capstone of all the other engineering classes," said Corrigan.
The class was structured as closely as possible to the way a company would create a product: Students budgeted for design and production; engineered hardware, creating vents and fans; wrote software for the automated controls; created 3-D designs; built a wall with sheetrock and insulation to mount the product in; created a pricing rationale; and developed marketing strategies.
At several points along the way, they met with adult mentors who served as a phase review committee and presented their progress-to-date.
"It's the full soup-to-nuts," Corrigan said, at least as far as putting together a functional prototype. "That's as far as we're going to get this term."
The system senses inside and outside temperature. The customer can set the system to cool the house by setting temperature thresholds: When the inside temperature is warmer than the outside temperature, vents open and a fan kicks on to bring in the cooler outside air. The reverse of the process will warm the house.
The students found the project engaging.
Lane Huitt noted that not only did the class tap skills they've learned in the classroom over the years, but also incorporated "a lot of problem-solving, too."
Cooper Gould wrote the software for the automated controls, a new experience for him. He found the class satisfying.
"I really like classes that have that real-world application that's obvious and direct and part of the class," he said.
The future of science and math education in Sisters lies in this direction. Corrigan's class, created with backing from the Sisters Science Club, lays groundwork for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education that recently got a major boost through the receipt of a $196,500 Career and Technical Education (CTE) grant to enhance and create integrated STEM programs at Sisters High School and Sisters Middle School.
The grant will purchase equipment for a dedicated engineering computer lab, drafting tools, power tools and an all-weather outdoor facility for construction projects. It will also fund curriculum- and professional-development time for creating and refining the program.
In last Thursday's presentation at Sisters High School, an audience of students and community members watched a student-produced video on the project, then observed a demonstration of the prototype. Emily Corrigan used a hair dryer to heat one side of the wall, while Evan Rickards applied an ice pack to the other side to create a temperature differential. The prototype worked as designed both to heat and cool - with the vents opening and the fans kicking on as temperatures hit their appointed settings.
A link to the video on the project may be found with the online version of this story at www.nuggetnews.com.