Engineering Is Dimond’s Paws-on House

It is the only Engineering Academy in the Anchorage School District and it’s exclusively here at Dimond High School; it’s the Dimond Engineering Academy. In its second year the Academy has accomplished many goals. One of this year’s major goals was diversity. Currently the Engineering Academy houses 200 students. Enrollment doubled this year compared to last year’s numbers. Chaz Vaughn, the Digital Electronic class instructor, says, “40 percent of enrolled students are minorities and we have seen [an] increase of enrolled females.” Also new this 2009-2010 school year is the addition of Civil Engineering and Architecture (EA) course. Wade Roach, Instructor of EA, says, “[EA] introduces to the student to residential design in the first semester and the second semester commercial design.” This new class “will form a PLTW [Project Lead The Way®] program continuum… to form a complete engineering background.” Engineering is defined as the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people. But to some it’s more than the application of math and science. Senior Cody Perkins describes engineering classes as a “hands-on experience,” a break from the regular pencil to paper routine all students have been accustomed to. Aside from being ASD sponsored, the academy is also nationally accredited by PLTW. PLTW is a non- profit organization that promotes education on engineering. In forming partnerships with public schools, PLTW provides a standard curriculum and teacher training to further benefit students. The Dimond Engineering Academy offers five different classes open to all Dimond students, separated into each grade level. Freshmen are recommended to take the PLTW Introduction to Engineering Design class, while the Sophomore engineering class is the Principles of Engineering (POE) class. The upperclassmen get a variety of engineering courses: Digital Electronics (DE); Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM); and Civil Engineering and Architecture (EA). Maile Lee, a senior, raves about CIM as a, “fun class with a strong background in math and science.” Perkins adds, “We are learning how to use the new inventor program. We can build a 3-D object on the computer, plug it in to a [drilling] mill and it will carve out a 3-D object.” A special advisory counsel comprised of many engineering firms such as British Petroleum, Siemens and other smaller engineering firms offer insight to the Academy. “In the future…mentorships [job shadowing] are going to available to students,” says Jennifer Childress, teacher of the Principles of Engineering class. Another main goal of the Academy is earning the college certification. With a partnership University of Alaska Anchorage, the Academy plans to work with integrate to high school credits through its engineering program. Lee, currently in CIM, plans to take her skills in engineering education learned here at Dimond to a career in Geophysical Engineering at University of Alaska Fairbanks. Dimond is currently applying to gain national recognition as a college level class, students like Lee can not only transfer their knowledge, but an actual college credit that back up those skills. To sum it up, the engineering program has been both memorable and a priceless learning experience for students. “I would definitely recommend it to all the students,” Lee said. Perkins added “I love building stuff with my hands, building on a computer then actually holding it in your hands, there’s nothing cooler than that, it’s awesome.” With a structured curriculum, experienced teachers and as a group of motivated of students, the Dimond Engineering Academy‘s future only looks brighter.