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Engineering Their Passion

By: Michael Bentley

Nick Dal Porto is working with his group to build a go kart for the Power Racing Series for their engineering project. Photo by Bradley Kishiyama

Many seniors remember when d.tech was originally pitched with the promise that project based learning would be a core focus of the school. Although their delivery on that promise has been rather lackluster, students in Wayne Brock’s Engineering course are now able to dedicate the greater part of their semester to an Engineering project of their choice. Students have begun pitching their wild ideas, such as a custom gum wrapper creator and a sailing simulator.

This is not the first time Brock has tried this concept. At the end of the semester last year, he had his Engineering students pilot a similar program. The projects went well and students were able to create a low resolution prototype. However, Brock said “it was clear that more time would have been better for the project.” Now students’ projects will be started earlier in the year.

Brock is leaving the various projects students can try open-ended as long as the students work in a group to “apply engineering principles,” and the projects are “safe enough for school.” Brock wants these projects to allow students to “apply all of the skills they have learned up to this point and extend their learning.” He says he strongly believes that “people learn best when they are doing the thing they really want to do,” and this is a great method to make that happen.

Every group is trying their hand at different tasks and one group, led by senior Nick Dal Porto, is trying to build a go kart for a Power Racing Series. For Power Racing Series, teams build small motorized go karts to race at the different Maker Faires around the country. He plans to race his group’s go kart at Maker Faire Bay Area in May. He believes most of his project will be “pretty straightforward” except for the challenge of fundraising the $500 he has budgeted for the car. He has already contacted possible connections such as K1 Speed to get some of the more basic go kart parts required and save on his budget.

Other students are working on less typical engineering projects. Aidan Janzen, a junior, and his group are creating a mechanical keyboard. They hope to create their own custom keyboard all manually soldered and assembled. Their goal is to have at least one keyboard done by the end of the semester with the stretch goal of completing a second one. The biggest challenge they believe they will face is “soldering the mechanical switches to the PCB” with over 120 connections.

With this new unit in Brock’s Engineering course, students will finally be able to take charge of their educations. Brock will serve as “a facilitator and coach to help push [students] through their projects,” and students will now be able to explore their passions with his guidance.

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