New class offers engineering overview

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, August 29, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The new school year has brought Project Lead the Way engineering classes to Clanton schools.

At Chilton County High School, a STEM Academy has been established to offer these classes. One of the new classes offered as a part of the program is Principles of Engineering.

Teacher Nikki Maddox said each of the students had taken an Introduction to Engineering Design before this course. She said the introduction class is not a required prerequisite, but it is helpful.

The class serves an introduction to the different kinds of engineering.

“Every unit is a different type, so we will do electrical engineering and learn how to build a circuit board …,” Maddox said. “We will do some mechanical engineering … we will do some things with alternative fuels and we will look at hydrogen cells.”

Students began by practicing with test boards, a stationary electronic board with a few moving parts. Maddox said the test boards were designed to help students learn the basics of building and programming. Later in the year, they will be building machines to solve problems and complete tacks, such as sorting marbles.

“They will have to, with their team, come up with the design, build it and then program it to where it works,” Maddox said.

The class can help students develop a better idea of what area of engineering they might want to pursue or build on what they know they are interested in.

“All my life, I have wanted to be an aerospace engineer when I grow up,” student Eli Babb said.

Student Cage Phillips said he was interested in the class because his father teaches engineering classes at the middle school.

After students built the test boards and connected it to a battery for power and a computer for programing, students used ROBOTC software to begin programming the device. Student Nakevra Brown said she enjoyed the opportunity to work with technology because she wants to be a computer engineer. Students worked in teams to figure out how to program the test board and overcome any issues that came up.

The students use Dell laptops, since the program cannot be downloaded to the Chromebooks most Chilton County Schools use.

Maddox attended two weeks (80 hours) of training at Auburn University in preparation for teaching this PLTW course.