It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in the field of engineering. Archer’s Science Department has been encouraging female entrepreneurship in the Engineering field.
In the United States alone, only one in seven engineers are women. This is due to the fact that only 20% of people pursuing a career in engineering are women. In light of these unsettling statistics, The Archer School for Girls introduced a new program to “integrate engineering and design thinking throughout the curriculum” for the 2013-2014 school year.
“There’s a big need for women in engineering,” says Shane Berning, Science Department Chair. “Women offer a particular altruistic viewpoint. They have very organized ways of thinking.” These notions influenced Cassia Sonderleiter, former chair, and Berning to incorporate engineering in the science curriculum, prompting the search for someone to take charge of the program.
“We set about to find an engineering person… we interviewed all summer long and we found Mr. Carter. Mr. Carter came in with a lot of ideas, one of them was this idea of a design and engineering lab,” Mr. Berning continues.
The IDEA Lab— Integrated Design and and Engineering Arts—was created to stimulate collaboration, creativity and invention in the Archer community. Mike Carter has taken charge of this program, which stretches cross-curricularly, incorporating engineering to classes beyond Archer’s science program.
“There’s this plan of integrating more engineering into different classes. For instance, the Honors Research class has one student who is designing a bridge to go across Sunset Blvd, like a walkway to make it safer… she’s also working with Mr. Carter to integrate this engineering concept into her big project,” says Berning.
The course has reached out to both the Middle School and Upper School respectively. In 6th grade science classes, students are introduced to robotics and “scratch,” or basic programming. The course has also been fashioned into the quarterly integrated arts rotation for 7th graders, but focuses more on the design aspect of engineering.
The 8th grade curriculum recently started incorporating woodworking into its Physical Science courses. Ninth graders work with robots in Physics classes, and all upper school students are offered the option to take Carter’s Engineering and Design elective.
In this elective course, students explore the basic principles of engineering, design, and computer programming. Students are expected to individually explore various programs to bring to life their ideas: “They complete projects together combining aspects of computer programming, discrete electronics, mechanical engineering, engineering management and design thinking.”
Students in this course ultimately redefine the mechanics of any object. They take devices apart, figure out how they work, and repurpose them.
“I enjoy when Mr. Carter gives us challenging projects and lets us struggle and finally figure them out,” says Sophie Frank ’15. “That sense of satisfaction when we finally get the answer is the best.”
It is evident that students are challenged in the Engineering and Design class. Ari Brown ’16 explains a certain project she is currently working on: “I have hacked a mindflex and used the Arduino brain within the mindflex to create a brain activity sensor. This is used to measure the amount of activity within the brain and shown on a necklace with LED fiboroptics.”
While quite a baffling statement to the uninformed, these girls understand what they are talking about. They have been hard at work in the lab— accepting and embracing the challenges of the course.
“What is it going to look like next year?” Berning questions. “We are still figuring that out… but right now we have so many options. We actually have people really interested in all the different aspects of it.” Archer anticipates that this interest will grow as the IDEA Lab completes its transition into the school community.