November 17, 2014

Martinsville, VA - (Martinsville Bulletin) Local students are learning how to take their newfound knowledge in engineering beyond the classroom to benefit the community.


High school juniors and seniors in the Academy of Engineering and Technology (AET) at New College Institute (NCI) developed designs to retrofit current tables and create new ones to be used by sellers at the Martinsville Uptown Farmers’ Market.


Since the start of the school year, students have been working in groups to develop the winning design to be used by the farmers’ market to improve the tables for vendors.


Students began by meeting with Pat Folio, director of the Martinsville Uptown Farmers’ Market, and various vendors to learn about the existing tables. Then students worked in groups to discover practical solutions to be incorporated through engineering redesigns.


“Learning in the context of real-world projects helps students develop a stronger understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in an applied manner. It also provides a more integrated approach to learning and problem solving,” said Dr. Coray Davis, Virginia State University (VSU) faculty-in-residence for AET.


“With this project, students were exposed to the engineering design process while incorporating the 4-Cs of effective education (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication). Tasks included interviewing the vendors in an effort to determine their needs, brainstorming possible solutions within their teams, refining their designs using sound engineering principles and finally, communicating their efforts to a large audience,” said John Hatchett, VSU faculty-in-residence for AET.


Student groups recently gave presentations of their design concepts to an audience of their peers, AET faculty, NCI staff and representatives of the farmers’ market.


“Wow! I am blown away by the great ideas that we hadn’t considered before,” said Folio. “I loved the features built into the concepts for the retrofit and new table designs. We hope to move forward with a new design and complete fundraising and execution of this project by the start of the 2016 season.”


Students enjoyed the opportunity to apply the engineering skills in the classroom to real-world situations.


“Personally, I enjoyed building the table design using CAD (computer-aided design),” said AET student Christian Cuenca. “The process was very tedious and involved trial and error. But even the failures are learning experiences.”


“I like working within a group and getting to know my fellow students better,” said another student, Tripp Philpott. “We all showed respect for each other’s ideas even though there were times that we disagreed.”


“We learned that with every problem, there is a solution. This applies to both engineering and teamwork,” added Tim Ross, another student.


AET is a dual enrollment program of NCI offered in partnership with Virginia State University to high school juniors and seniors. Students can earn up to 12 transferable credit hours from VSU in college-level courses in engineering and technology.


Currently, 59 students participate in AET from Martinsville-Henry County and Danville-Pittsylvania County.