NT partnership guides budding engineers
Intoduction to Engineering Design students Leah Rivkin, Danny Belkmop, Keenan Hilbrand and Alex Kikos discussing a prototype of a soccer table they just pulled out of the laser cutter. | Provided
Updated: December 13, 2012 3:02PM
WINNETKA — With American schools placing a greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses, New Trier High School looked to working professionals from the local community to help guide their students.
Last year, Applied Arts Department Chairman Jason Boumstein brought a STEM program to New Trier called “Project Lead the Way.” The school then formed an engineering partnership made up of industry professionals, school staff and students to allow kids to receive feedback from their elders as they immerse themselves in engineering courses and projects.
“A lot of engineers and educators sit on this board,” Boumstein said. “They help students with any questions they may have and are able to improve our curriculum. Last year was our pilot program and we completely overhauled our intro program based on discussions at this table.”
During a recent meeting, several professionals talked about the various trends in their particular fields and heard presentations from the students regarding projects they are currently working on at the school.
Senior Janak Jha and junior Reiker Seiffe had been looking at Americans with Disabilities Act issues at New Trier, specifically ways to help the maintenance staff move a nearly 300 pound wheelchair ramp in one of the gyms.
“We moved it around and felt how heavy it was,” Seiffe said. “That was about as real as it gets. After we did this project I really knew I wanted to do this.”
The two came up with several preliminary designs and presented them to the professionals. The designs included pulley systems, adding wheels to the ramp and modifying the ramp itself.
“This was the first project we did that was tangible and we could see how it could be used in the real world,” Jha said. “It was very motivating to know that this was something to solve a real problem someone in my class was having.”
The professionals sitting at the table were impressed with the student’s ideas and offered their thoughts on how realistic their proposed solutions were, while offering advice to help them further their careers and interests.
“It’s not wrong to do something wrong,” said Bob Backstrom of Underwriters Laboratories. “Your career is in learning and some of us are still learning. Don’t come up with one idea, come up with five.”
After the meeting several professionals, from such companies as Motoroloa, Boeing, Northwestern University and others, stayed late to speak with the students on a more personal basis.
New Trier students can take courses in introduction to engineering design, civil and structural engineering, principles of engineering and biotechnical engineering under the Project Lead the Way sequence.