Country Day’s Engineering Class: DIY in the Classroom

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George Crowley

By George Crowley ’16, Tech Editor

Engineering class, despite being a relatively new class to Country Day, is already very popular, with 9 students enrolled this semester. It’s a semester long elective taught by Mr. Marcus Twyford, of tech desk fame. The class is aimed at giving students a broader understanding of the disciplines of engineering and giving them hands-on experience in both designing and building. It is taught as a “survey” course, meaning various areas are explored including mechanical engineering, design, and arduino coding. All of this culminates into a project that the students must design and create themselves. Mr. Twyford wants the students to constantly improve and fix their designs, analyzing what went wrong. He sees it as more than just learning about engineering: “It’s developing a skill set,” he said. Not one that just works for engineering, but one that will help students problem-solve later in life. Upper School Head Stephanie Luebbers is similarly enthusiastic, saying that “It fits well within our rigorous liberal arts curriculum,” and that it “provides room for kids to experiment; anyone can benefit.” She looks forward to the future of the program, and hinted at possibilities for expansion in the future. She also told me how the engineering program started, with Chemistry teacher Paula Butler and Math teacher Jamie Back, who attended a yearlong program at UC on engineering in the classroom two years ago. They decided it would be an important class to have at Country Day, and created a proposal. The proposal was approved, and Mr. Twyford was hired at the same time for the tech desk. Two other classes may be added to the curriculum next year: a class on environmental science and a multivariable calculus class.

Mr. Twyford also has big plans for the future of the engineering class. He told me a few projects he hopes to get done soon, such as cleaning up the cabling in the conference room and adding new shelving. In the longer term, he’d like to expand the scope of the course, allowing students to create even more ambitious designs. He’d also like to focus more on certain areas, such as electrical engineering, and robotics. He’d like to look at reworking the observatory in the front fields and make it more accessible for student use. In addition to that, he’d also like to expand the program to the rest of the school, perhaps working on smaller engineering projects in the Middle and Lower Schools. He mentioned perhaps having students design spaghetti bridges or mouse trap cars.

Students are really enjoying the class too, even if they aren’t looking at pursuing engineering in college. Jonah Ice ’16 said he was simply taking the class to “broaden his horizons,” and that he was really enjoying the class so far.  His favorite part has been building a mouse trap car and the project he’s designing is a chicken coop with automatic temperature control. If he could change anything about the class, he’d want some more resources for them to work with. David Yang ’16 is taking the class to “know how machines work, and try to modify them.” David is really enjoying working on fixing the Makerbot 3D printer and adding some features to the middle school commons projector. Nick Krammer ’17 is taking the class because he “was really interested in 3D printing and soldering,” and enjoys “the loose nature” of the engineering class, which gives him freedom to experiment and learn on his own. He’s really enjoying working on computer-controlled cars with groups in his class. Both David and Nick are at least considering engineering in college, and see this as a useful step in the process to learn about what to expect.

This class is a really exciting addition to the Country day curriculum, and its steadily gaining popularity. This class seems to mirror the growing trend of “DIY” spreading across the internet and it seems to be the place to go to learn about, and develop skills relevant to creating on your own. I’d encourage everyone, especially underclassmen, to check it out! The mix of grades will help you meet new people, and you’ll learn a lot as well.

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