From Carnival Games to 3-D Printed Toys

Engineering Comes to Hastings High School

From Carnival Games to 3-D Printed Toys

Julia Mooney, Staff Writer

Faye Barenfeld (Mrs. B), who just began her third year teaching at Hastings High School, is currently teaching Chemistry, Culinary Chemistry, and a brand new course, Project Lead the Way’s Introduction to Engineering. Previously, she had taught Living Environment and Anatomy and Physiology.  I had a chance to interview her on the Project Lead the Way Course.

This course comes from a national organization called Project Lead The Way, which focuses on developing career skills for the students, starting in kindergarten and continuing through senior year of high school. Last year, the assistant superintendent Melissa Symanski applied for a grant to bring Project Lead The Way engineering courses to both the middle and high schools. The grant went through and they were able to order supplies and get professional development over the summer to prepare. 

“The goal is to have a course pathway for students to develop their engineering skills which are transformable skills that can go from career to career,” said Mrs. Barenfeld. “It’s not just good for people who want to be engineers, any other career path involves teamwork and collaboration design and logical thinking skills.”

Mrs. Barenfeld actually didn’t know much about engineering in high school, although she “wished” classes had been available. During college she studied applied mathematics and chemistry. Through her course work and encouragement from her professors, she decided to pursue work in an applied scientific field. 

She said, I was always interested in the medical field, and peers and professors recommended that I try Engineering.” After that, she started to research and applied to other programs in that field, ultimately ending up at UCLA. She became a polymer chemist and engineer, working to design cancer medications.

In the Project Lead The Way class, students are learning about the engineering and the design process. They use a special technique for “developing and improving on designs” that begins with setting goals and establishing the criteria that needs to be met. After this, students start “prototyping,” sketching out their ideas and discussing with their team members what went well in each iteration. Finally, after the prototype stage, they create a solution that represents their best work and show how they got there. For example, for one project, they made a tower composed of 20 pieces of spaghetti that can support a marshmallow at the highest point. The class went through the process and it took 18 minutes.

“For some students, the first round they did this they were frustrated and confused,” said Mrs. Barenfeld; during the first round, only two of the three teams established a stable structure. In round two, with some more engineering knowledge, all teams achieved a standing structure and were able to build taller structures.

Currently, in class they are working on creating launching devices that could be used in carnival games. Each device has to meet certain criteria for how far they can launch a bean bag.

“All of the work that the class has completed will be put to the test in a real life size carnival game,” Mrs. Barenfeld noted. The goal is to have the launcher in a bean bag land in the target area with a certain percentage probability.

Later in the year, the students will work on 3D modeling skills. They will learn how to use Fusion 360, a program that will help them reverse engineer, 3D print, and even build their own toys.

Although this is only the first run-through of the course, Mrs. Barenfeld hopes that it will continue in future years. She loves that the course is hands-on and prepares students for all sorts of careers. It’s meant to help students work with a team and improve their thinking and skills. Mrs. Barenfeld tells her students, “The goal is to work and improve on your initial thoughts and plans and to think deeper.”

For students who are thinking about future careers, she also added, “This [course] teaches you transformable and highly in-demand skills that will bring your ideas to life. Colleges are graduating too many science majors for the job market and about only 50 percent of engineers that are needed.”