Caesar Rodney High School Feature

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TSA members, including Delaware TSA State Reporter, Michael Canning, are in the Processes of Design and Engineering career pathway... 

By Jeff Brown
Re-posted with the permission of The Dover Post,

TSA members, including Delaware TSA State Reporter, Michael Canning, are in the Processes of Design and Engineering career pathway at Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Delaware. Along with other Caesar Rodney students, the TSA members are actively involved in a program offered through a partnership between the Delaware Professional Engineers and the Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority (CWSWA).and taking field trips to see engineering in action in our community

How much does one million gallons of water weigh?

Now, how do you drill a well to supply that water, build a 150-foot tall tank to hold it all and seamlessly connect both to an existing water supply system?

Caesar Rodney High School students in Tim Elmer’s engineering classes may not have those answers yet, but a new partnership between the school and the Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority (CWSWA) is designed to help them figure it all out.

In June, the CWSWA began a partnership with the Delaware Association of Professional Engineers (DAPE) on a two-year program called “A Laboratory for Learning,” that will give engineering students a chance to watch the authority’s real-life water system expansion project unfold and experience how their classroom studies can be put to practical use.

“One of the things we teach is engineering design, which is a problem-solving process,” explained Elmer, CR’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) faculty representative. “The students learn to understand problems, and come up with different ways to solve them. Then they narrow down the solutions and test ways to improve them.”

Elmer said there’s no guarantee the roughly 20 students taking part in the Laboratory for Learning program will solve the challenges facing the CWSWA as it works to complete the project. But he’s not discounting it, either.

“We’ve only had one meeting, but in that meeting they were able to see how different materials can be used to solve problems and that really got their interest,” he said.

The students also will take field trips and interact with experts in all fields of engineering, allowing them to eventually narrow down their own areas of interest before moving on to higher education and possible careers in engineering, Elmer said.

Senior Mark Sefil said he is taking part in the program partially because he thinks it will help him decide which engineering discipline he wants to pursue in college.

Meanwhile, junior Efe Ozturkoglu said he wants to apply his book learning outside of school.

“I hope to learn more about how this works and how what we learn in the classroom works in real life,” he said.

CWSWA engineer Soheil Gharebaghi, who represents DAPE on the CWSWA board, said the $2 million project is needed because of Camden’s expansion, both in population and area, since 2000. Wyoming has grown as well, he added.

“The service area has grown to a point where it became necessary to increase our capacity to produce and deliver the water and to store it,” he said.

Gharebaghi credited authority board member Peter Couming with the idea of involving the students in the project.

“He thought we 

were being presented with a great learning opportunity for anyone, from high school age on up, to encourage studies in science, technology, engineering and math,” he said.

The group then reached out to area high schools and Elmer introduced them to his engineering students.

“I’m a layman,” Couming said. “I don’t know anything about engineering, but I sit in awe of it. I think this is fascinating stuff, and I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could show this to students? We really could motivate some of them by letting them see it all.”

The idea already has motivated at least one local business to help out. Camden’s Super Walmart donated a dozen high-visibility vests for the students to wear while out in the field, Couming said. He’s hoping others will step up as well.

Because the tank and water line project will take about two years to complete, some of Elmer’s students won’t be around to see the work finished, but they’ll still be able to learn, Gharebaghi said.

“We’re going to ask Delaware engineers to come in and talk about their areas of expertise to see if any students might be interested in pursuing careers there,” he said.

There is no strict structure for how the program will work, but plans currently include guest speakers, like professional engineers, field supervisors, surveyors, technicians and construction crews who are doing actual work in Kent County. Students also will hear from government officials and representatives of other water and sewer authorities in the area.

“These kids already have access to imposed learning in school, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, we thought there were things outside that would be interesting,” Gharebaghi said. “It’s a way students can be placed in touch with the realities and applications of STEM. We thought the exposure of students to these disciplines might ignite a spark of interest.”

Couming is encouraging companies and municipalities around Kent County to consider a similar Laboratory for Learning programs.

“We have so many fascinating things happening, so how many others could have something else that might pique the curiosity of a young student,” he said.