Sherwood Education Foundation

December 2013 Sherwood Gazette article: SHS engineering, 11/7/13

Sherwood High students Evan Campbell (left) and Tanner Watrous pose with in-progress R2D2 in SHS engineering lair.

Sherwood High Generates Districtwide Interest in Engineering

It seems that you can’t read an article about the state of national K-12 education or even the national economy without encountering the anxious concern that the US is not generating enough science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals.

Here in Sherwood, STEM education is alive and well, thanks in large part to the efforts of John Niebergall, Engineering and Architecture teacher at Sherwood High School (SHS). The Sherwood Education Foundation (SEF) is proud to have funded a whole workshop full of specialized gear that Niebergall students use to become budding engineers.

Years ago, Niebergall started an Intro to Engineering class at SHS, which quickly expanded to an entire engineering curriculum—five increasingly advanced classes followed by the opportunity to pursue special projects. All engineering students become fluent in 2-D and 3-D computer-aided design (CAD) software. They also have the opportunity to create prototypes of their designs using a plasma cutter, 3-D printer, laser printer, and embedded systems design hardware and software—all funded by SEF.

Niebergall also supported the formation of an after-school robotics club, which quickly grew into three teams. These high school teams launched robotics competitions at Sherwood elementary and middle schools, which have generated STEM education interest among younger kids. At these competitions, elementary-age students toured the SHS engineering lair and were able to see the 3-D printer and plasma cutter at work, eyeball the extensive wood shop, take apart computers, and even design rudimentary video games.

Last year, a couple of Niebergall students started building a life-size replica of R2D2, the feisty robot from the Star Wars universe. Students today are completing the robot, using SEF-funded equipment and electronics. Niebergall envisions R2D2 being an engineering ambassador to the lower grades and even to the community, at events such as Cruisin’ Sherwood and Robin Hood Festival.

His ultimate goal is nothing short of turning high school students into technology entrepreneurs. Students will come up with their own product ideas; design them using the CAD software; create prototypes using the laser printer, plasma cutter, and 3-D printer; design the animating electronics; and upload their creations to web sites the provide low-volume manufacturing services. They’ll even learn how to set up a business, use PayPay to collect money, and launch new-business funding using crowd-sourcing websites like Kickstarter.

That’s what SEF calls an amazing return on its investment. Thanks, John Niebergall and all your incredible students! Visit sherwoodeducation.org to learn more about SEF and all it’s doing in our schools.

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