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Austin High School students take a test in the Engineering Academy Initiative. Austin, Decatur and Athens high schools are among 16 schools participating in this statewide initiative.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Austin High School students take a test in the Engineering Academy Initiative. Austin, Decatur and Athens high schools are among 16 schools participating in this statewide initiative.

Engineering Academy Initiative
Training
future engineers

Program introduces students to many engineering facets

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

Testing parts to see if they’ll work on the space shuttle sounds interesting to Austin High School student Sean Goodman.

The freshman said that’s what his father, Dwight Goodman, does as a NASA mechanical engineer. Sean Goodman now has an outlet to test his interest in following his dad’s footsteps. It is the school’s new Engineering Academy Initiative.

Austin, Decatur and Athens high schools are among 16 schools chosen to participate in this initiative through the state Department of Education and Auburn University.

Austin teacher Alesia Doran said the initiative allows freshmen to take the engineering drawing I class to learn about the design cycle and 2-D and 3-D computer-aided design. The program’s purpose is to prepare students to major in engineering at Auburn, Alabama A&M University or one of the three engineering schools in The University of Alabama system in Huntsville, Birmingham or Tuscaloosa.

Dropout rate concern

Decatur High teacher Mark Christopher said the universities have been concerned about the dropout rate of engineering majors.

He said this four-year program gives them a chance to experience engineering areas like mechanical, chemical and electrical.

“This will allow an honors student to see what engineering is, and allow them to be well prepared for what faces them when they get into college,” Christopher said.

Doran said during their freshman year students will learn about 2-D drawing (blueprints), 3-D modeling, digital photos and imaging, making process flow charts, circuits and computer chips.

They’ll learn math like Moore’s Law, binary numbers and simple exponential functions.

Algebra I in eighth grade

Christopher said eighth-graders would need to take Algebra I so they’re on an honors math track when they reach high school.

They would then take honors geometry as freshmen, Algebra II as sophomores, pre-calculus as juniors and advanced placement calculus as seniors.

“We’re trying to allow other ways to get into the program from a regular math level, but it would be difficult,” Christopher said.

Mini-internships

The schools are trying to develop mini-internships for students who reach junior and senior levels of the initiative. Christopher said the students would pick an engineering problem and then work with a local industry or business to solve the problem.

The students may get to visit local businesses and industries, which may also provide guest speakers for the schools.

Austin freshman Jonathan Kirsch said he has always been interested in drawing and art, but “I’ve never been very good at drawing freehand.”

3-D CAD allows him to use his creative side.

His father is a chemical engineer, but he is more interested in mechanical engineering.

“I like working with gadgets,” Kirsch said.

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