"Engineers Don't Drive Trains"

Front Page Summary: 

Two TSA seniors reach out to elementary students through their published book, Engineers Don't Drive Trains.

Two TSA members of the Highland School of Technology (NC) chapter, Kristen Layne and Hannah Gray, placed first in (Kristen) Desktop Publishing, Essays on Technology and (Hannah) Imaging Technology and second place in Technical Sketching events at the NC TSA State Conference; however, they may be best remembered for their Advanced Studies class project at Highland. Layne and Gray published an elementary text book titled Engineers Don’t Drive Trains.

The Highland School of Technology is a magnet school where an admissions lottery system accepts a percentage of student applications from eight local public high schools. Only 148 openings exist to get into Highland annually. “We select students from across the county. There is a diverse population across all cultures, academics and socioeconomic backgrounds to make a student body that is supportive of each other within this school environment. Peer teaching and learning is part of the positive culture which makes all our students successful,” said Mr. Russell Wingfield. In addition to serving as the Highland Coordinator of the Engineering Technology and Graphics Communication Academy, Mr. Wingfield co-advises the TSA chapter with Stacy Bradley, Scarlett Daugherty and Nancy Taliaferro. Highland offers three academies, Engineering Technology and Graphics Communication, Finance and Computer Engineering and Health and Biotechnology. Within each academy there are various pathways available for the students. Highland School of Technology has been recognized as one of the Top 30 Model Schools in the Nation for Bringing Best Practices to Scale by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Council of Chief State School Officers, and the International Center for Leadership in Education.

TSA is one of three Career and Technical Student Organization chapters at Highland School of Technology. HOSA and FBLA are the others. Mr. Wingfield explained “…we feel the chapters are the catalysts for making the students successful. Membership in these groups builds a good network in the school. Seniors often help underclassmen if they have questions concerning class work during TSA meeting and functions. It gives them a positive focus that is connected to school.”

TSA has about 60 active members and took 50 students to the North Carolina state conference in Spring, 2009. In addition to placing in the top three in twenty competitive events, Highland School of Technology earned North Carolina High School Chapter of the Year for the 5th consecutive year.

Kristen and Hannah were selected to attend the Highland School of Technology as incoming freshmen. Kristen transferred to the Engineering academy her sophomore year and Hannah selected Engineering upon entering Highland. Kristen will attend Furman University and Hannah will attend Appalachian State University this fall. Kristen and Hannah held officer positions during their four years at Highland. Kristen was president of the Highland chapter in 08/09 and is a former North Carolina TSA Reporter.

In the Advanced Studies class Layne and Gray were enrolled in, Mr. Wingfield pitched the idea of a project on how to present engineering education to an elementary age student. “As a coordinator for a high school engineering program I felt that to increase the number of females in engineering at the university level we must first implant the seed of information in a mind that is growing with creativity and curiosity. Elementary school level was the perfect choice to introduce this information to add to the thought process of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’? If they are good at math and science in elementary school why not promote engineering and the concept of problem solving which will enhance their overall education no matter what discipline they follow,” Mr. Wingfield said.

Layne and Gray considered whether or not it was a viable option to actually publish a book with this purpose, and decided to take it on as their class project. Layne and Gray did all the research, development, plot, story line and characters and publication. Wingfield supervised the storyline and character development aspects. With the help of David Poston, English teacher and a published author who served as editor, the students published the 78-page children’s book using Createspace.com, a free online publishing tool. Engineers Don’t Drive Trains encourages elementary-age female students to be successful in everything they attempt; the book focuses particularly on engineering concepts. Engineers Don’t Drive Trains explains to the third/fourth grade level how interesting an engineering career can be in a story format. According to the authors, M. K. Layne and Hannah E. Gray, “…she (the character in the book) explores the various aspects of engineering, from electrical to civil, learning along the way that being a girl cannot stop her from fulfilling her dreams.”

D. Layne, parent of Kristen Layne said “she began as a child who could barely plug in a toaster and four years later she was testing circuits, creating valves and pressure devices and using tools from machine shops. Kristen may never be an Engineer by vocation, but she is so much the better for having learned these principles. After all, isn’t that what liberal arts education is all about? The engineering program taught her to develop projects, not just follow recipes from previous successes. It is this ability to imagine, and then create that will push these graduates to even greater successes.”

Engineers Don't Drive Trains will soon be available on line from Amazon.com, however, those interested can contact Highland directly to discuss a group price through Createspace.com. Visit the school website for contact information at http://www.highlandtech.us.