Engineering Design and Development
Ithaca High School’s Engineering Design and Development class enables students to design and construct solutions to real-world problems.
Through design cycle principles and some seed funding, the seniors in IHS' Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering capstone class plan to bring their pitches to market.
Engineering Design and Development allows students to create products or services by following a product development cycle. The class has a significant entrepreneurship component, including a Shark Tank-style pitch night in January, during which six teams competed for their share of $1,500 in funding to take their ideas to the next level.
Teams presented to a four-judge panel, including ICSD Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown and representatives of local businesses and colleges. Students presented their research on the problem and explained how a solution would affordably and efficiently help potential customers.
The PLTW program at IHS introduces students to engineering principles and empowers them to develop a problem-solving mindset through real-world challenges.
Students in the program take five classes over four years, learning about design and drawing, manufacturing robotics and general engineering principles before moving on to the capstone class. Engineering Design and Development gives students the chance to combine those skills in an entrepreneurial setting, said Ian Krywe, who teaches the class along with Scott Breigle.
The kids are expected to rely on those experiences as well as seek outside help from real people in our community,” Krywe said.
The addition of elements like Pitch Night—which was thrown in about four years ago—also helps provide students with real-world experiences through project-based learning.
The class’ 26 seniors formed six teams and spent the first part of the year conducting research and exploring problems that required an engineering solution, each working alongside a mentor from the local business community. This year, Breigle and Krywe threw in another twist: they asked the class to reach out to 25 potential customers to understand their needs from a proposed product, part of the strategy of “design thinking.”
That front-end research initially slowed down the project timeline, but now seems to have accelerated the development process, Breigle said. When asked what customers’ needs are, “the students already have that information in hand,” he said.
This year’s projects include a service to connect student volunteers with senior citizen organizations; a nighttime wildlife detection device for cars; a program encouraging employers to provide workers with incentives for exercising; a non-profit information and online training center for bystanders to intervene in possible sexual assaults; a collision detection system to alert distracted drivers; and a device to improve communication between rowers and coaches.
Funding received at Pitch Night will go toward further product development. Teams are currently designing their initial prototypes, which they’ll present to their peers in February. At the end of the year, teams will present their final products in a trade show-style format.
Almost all of the current students said they planned to pursue engineering in college, and the program has received strong feedback from alumni who say they’re better prepared as a result, Breigle said.
Toby Brisson is one of the students working on Radharc, the wildlife detection devise. “Over half of people we interviewed had hit a deer, and over 75 percent knew someone who had,” he said.
The class enables students to have freedom in developing their projects, Brisson said. “As long as we have a good explanation to it, we can do whatever we want,” he said.