Sacred Heart's budding engineers

To most people, the Segway is an interesting method of transportation.

To Sacred Heart High School teacher Keith Goren, the motorized scooter is an engineering lesson on wheels, from the use of gyroscopes, to its zero turn radius, to the multiple computers that make it work.

"I was actually teaching on it," Goren said, as he whizzed around the school gym at 6 mph. "I could reach all the way to the top of the (black)board."

Goren, who has a master's degree in engineering from Rowan University, borrowed the Segway from the university to use in his class - although to their intense disappointment, insurance restrictions prohibited students from riding it.

The introductory engineering course was created by the Infinity Project, a partnership of Southern Methodist University and Texas Instruments designed to interest high school students in engineering through real-life lessons using technology students can relate to.

"We want them to see how engineering is used in an MP3 player and on the Internet," said Dianna Rey, director of academic relations for the Texas-based Infinity Project. "Stu-
dents really don't understand what engineers do. We want them to see the career opportunities in the stuff that is in their backpacks."

Almost 300 high schools in 37 states participate in the program. Sacred Heart is one of five high schools in New Jersey offering the course. Rey said students should take at least Algebra II and one lab science prior to the course. She said the program is a way to interest students who might not traditionally like math and science.

"Students wonder why they need to learn sine and cosine," she said. "This shows them."

Goren has used his relationship with Rowan to give students access to engineering projects. Students tested the kind of tile used on the space shuttle to study how it protects the shuttle from heat. Students also will do a class project in which they attempt to solve some type of engineering problem.

Jessica King, who works part time as a waitress, said she is going to try to design a device that can fold silverware into a napkin - something she does at work.

"It takes a lot of time," she said. "I'm going to see if I can figure out an easier way."

John Dickinson noticed that parts on computers break easily when moved. He said he wants to figure out a way to move computers more safely. Suzi Blough said she plans to design a laptop computer table.

"We're going to take this as far as we can," Goren said. "If we can get prototypes, that would be great."

Some of the students enrolled in the course because they are interested in engineering, and others signed up because it sounded interesting. That's fine with Rey, who said one of the class' goals is to spark interest in students who might not be thinking about engineering as a career.

All of Goren's students are seniors, and he said two students have already visited colleges to check out their engineering programs. But as a math teacher, he said he also knows there is hard work behind the fun applications. The students know it, too. When the engineering class is over, Goren has them again for calculus.

"This class is fun," Ed Santiago said. "The next period is ugh."

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Date Published: Monday, October 15, 2007 - 06:00
Source URL: Press of Atlantic City