Budding engineers learn while having fun at NMHS

College degrees in engineering could garner quick job placement in today's world.

And New Milford High School's science department is taking steps to prepare students to be ready for college-level courses in the field.

This fall, a class modeled on Project Lead the Way started with 20 students, mostly freshmen. The course is comparable to a college freshman introductory engineering course.

It stresses science, technology and engineering mathematics, the core subjects leading to employment success in the 21st century, explained Eileen Reed, chairwoman of the NMHS science department.

"We've been considering this course for some time," Ms. Reed said. "This year, three components came together: a physics faculty with a strong engineering background, a change in scheduling that provided an eighth-period elective and a good pool of students with an interest in engineering.

Freshman Michael Lanoce is already thinking ahead to his college career. Engineering is definitely in the forefront.

"This class shows me what I might experience in the real world," Michael said. "We're learning a lot about working with computers" to create designs.

Sophia Vendetti, 14, also took the class due to her interest in engineering.

"My dad was an engineer ... and I have an interest in it," Sophia, said. "The class is fun. It isn't what I expected. It's more hands on. It's better than I expected in that way."

Taught by Brad Jones and Erin Lucia, this is a design course, first and foremost. The students start drafting sketched design drawings. They then brainstorm to come up with a concept, then model it on computer, create a prototype and then a finished product.

Throughout the process, the students document their work.

For Alicia Lungo, 14, the class is more exciting than she anticipated.

"When you think of engineering, you think it might not be much fun," Alicia said. "But we build a cube and you have to use strategy to do it. The homework is challenging. It's not boring."

The class is offered in four course segments throughout the school year. The plan is to use this year as a pilot to develop a four-year series on the Project Lead the Way model.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322

Photography by Norm