Class engineers tomorrow’s education today

KINGSTON — Educators often bandy phrases like “world-class education,” which they believe is necessary to make Washington’s students competitive in a “global workplace.” Yet they’re not quite sure how to make today’s classrooms compatible with tomorrow’s workplace needs.

Enter David Leinweber, a technology education teacher at Kingston High. In his classroom, nestled among typical-looking classrooms on the first floor, the lesson plans are anything but ordinary. It’s here where the rubber meets the road.

Leinweber’s introduction to engineering serves as a baseline that can launch students into classes on principles of engineering, mechanical drafting or architecture. In these classes, students are challenged to combine their knowledge of math and science to create projects worthy of documentaries on The Discovery Channel. As a for instance, a small storage space is full of marble sorters, complete with an automated arm that separates marbles based on color. Every student has done that project. It’s considered small potatoes.

Students have their sights set on the more interesting work.

Junior Sam Shoemaker’s favored project is his sumo car, generically named “X-12,000.” Shoemaker’s remote-controlled sumo car was created to sumo wrestle other cars just like it. The object, much like real sumo wrestling, is for his car to knock its competitor out of the ring. Projects like these make introduction to engineering more like fun than work, he said.

“It’s tons of fun most of the time,” Shoemaker said. “A lot of it can be difficult, like electrical equations.” Shoemaker is making the most of his engineering class. Last year he earned a state-level award from the Technical Student Association for 3-D computer-aided design and was one of handful of Washington’s students to attend the national competition. He also created the school’s map that’s handed out to visitors at the front office.

It’s not difficult to see the correlation between what’s taught in engineering class and the real world, he said.

Andrea Cetnarowski, a junior and a self-described non-fan of hard core math and science, said she looks forward to engineering class more than any other.

“It’s hands-on. It’s not sitting at a desk and taking notes. You get to build things,” she said.

She inherited her interest in building from her father, who would let her help when he was working on projects around the house.

While she thinks the class is fun and interesting, she understands what she learns in that class will give her an advantage in the marketplace if she decides to pursue engineering.

“I think people need to start looking at technology a lot more,” Cetnarowski said. “Technology is so big and you can do so many things in this life with technology.”

As an educator, Leinweber understands what and how students must be taught to be competitive for college admission and in the workplace. A one-time college dropout, Leinweber has earned a bachelor’s degree in technical education with minors in math and physics.

He uses the classroom to pass his life’s lessons on to his students. Leinweber considers it critical the class evolves as necessary to continue to meet students’ and the world’s ever-changing needs.

Yesterday’s woodshop class is no longer helpful to today’s students, Leinweber said.

“We’re always looking for ways we can help our students be on top of their game in the world today. These kids need a sophisticated skillset,” he said.

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