Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Engineering Design: Hands-on Learning that Works

When you walk through the front doors of Mt. Blue, you immediately see the Bjorn Auditorium, above it suspended a beautiful, colorful glass sculpture. This accentuates the school’s phenomenal music and arts programs—which greatly deserve the attention. However, there are many other impressive qualities and programs, both in the facilities and the students at Mt. Blue. One of these programs is a class: Engineering Design.

Jake Bogar is the sole teacher of Engineering Design. All of his other classes are physics classes, and that has certainly had an influence on the fact that students can gain their physics requirement through the class. But perhaps the most outstanding characteristic of the class is how it is steeped in creativity. Bogar says, “It’s a project-based program. You make things. You work with your hands and your mind. The class tries to realize the MIT slogan: “Mens et Manus” —mind and hand.” Just taking a look into the room makes you understand just how project-based the class is. Wires, wood, and bits of metal and plastic are everywhere, and semi-finished assignments and ideas litter the floor and walls.

The class was conceived in 2005 in conjunction with the Foster Tech composites class. Bogar explains, "I always wanted to create a playground for students where they could make their world better through creative and fun purposeful work and exploration.” It certainly is a playground, and one that is perfect for just about everyone.

Not only do students learn concepts of physics, sketching, and many hands-on skills, they figure out the smaller challenges involved with creating something for a specific purpose—and a specific deadline. Materials lists, comparison shopping, evaluating the quality of parts and making trade-offs are all things that occur outside of the classroom, but are commonplace in Engineering Design. According to Bogar, “[Students are] practicing skills and applying knowledge to create something that improves a situation or solves a problem. They have time to dig into a project of their choosing while being supported with tools and materials. They can experience digital and analog fabrication techniques. They take things apart, learn how they work and repurpose components.”

Many classes try to incorporate direct, real world experiences for students to build and maintain a better understanding of the curriculum. With Engineering Design it’s a given: physical and professional applications are incorporated into the class—by design. Bogar strives to make the classroom a welcoming and creative environment. “I draw on my experiences regularly to make class real for students.” It is certainly one of the most genuine classes in the school and allows students to act on their aspirations—really no matter how large or small. An arena for growth and exploration, Engineering Design allows learning through experiences. Students get out what they put in through these experiences, which permits a deeper connection with what they learn.

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