A flash course in engineering sparks excitement
BRIDGEPORT — Most people have heard of flash mobs.
In Room C-210 at Central High School on Wednesday, there was a flash course in engineering, presented with the help of two Central alumni who work for Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, now part of Lockheed Martin.
The pair, along with an entourage that included volunteers from Discovery Education, a provider of digital curriculum resources, took over a tenth grade biology class, transforming it to look like one of Lockheed’s top secret Skunk Works innovation labs.
For a day, biology was replaced by the challenge to work in teams to come up with an aircraft capable of performing humanitarian aid missions.
“This doesn’t happen every day,” said Alex Torres, a biology and forensic science teacher at Central. “It’s the learning they might catch in a normal curriculum but puts it all together in one class.”
Central was the first of five schools that will be surprised with the one day program that organizers hope will inspire more students to enter science, technology, engineering and math — aka STEM — fields.
The sooner students get a passion around science, the better, said Michael Ambrose, a vice president of engineering and technology at Sikorsky, who walked the halls of Central as a student in the late 1970’s. Back then, he said he wanted to make a career of running track.
Not until later did he discover engineering.
Lockheed Martin’s Generation Beyond STEM curriculum is about speeding up the discovery process by showing how exciting an engineering career can be.
On Wednesday, Central students were tasked with drawing out prototypes, then build three-D models using clay — and as it turns out, a new 3-D printer hiding behind a white curtain strung up in the made over classroom.
Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, also stopped by the lesson. Earlier in the morning, Bysiewicz had put in an appearance at Bassick High School, where her spokesman, Juliemar Ortiz, a 2011 Bassick alumna was picking up an award.
At Central, she said she and the governor are counting on more young people to choose engineering, aerospace or advanced manufacturing as careers.
“These are jobs of the future and these are jobs available right now,” Bysiewicz told them.
Kelsey Tonacati-Cuatzo, a Central sophomore said she liked that the lesson was hands on and fun.
“Math is interesting to me,” she said. “Science too.”
Miguel Lopez, a Sikorsky program manager who also graduated from Central, remembers liking math so much in high school he thought of becoming a math teacher. His math teacher suggested instead he consider engineering.
Natalie Liberty Murray, a Central science teacher, said she liked that the assignment asked students to solve a problem that focused on empathy. The student had to design a rescue helicopter to aid in disasters.
“A lot of times, science is separated from any type of feeling,” she said. “In this project, student had to put it at the forefront.”
The class went so well, Sikorsky’s Advanced Technology Engineering team plans to return to mentor and help students learn to operate the printer.
The crew will also be bringing to the class to high schools in Florida, Texas, California and Colorado.