Learning Isn’t Confined to the Classroom

Zach Stewart is a PLTW Engineering student and Riley REAP Senior Ambassador at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana.

My classmate Tess Ngochi and I are working together on our Engineering Design and Development senior project at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana. Our project is focused on the issues drivers face with sun glare while on the road.

In case you aren’t familiar with the course Engineering Design and Development, or EDD, it is the PLTW capstone course for the PLTW Engineering program. Most engineering students at Riley High School take EDD their senior year. The class challenges students to use the sum of their knowledge from all previous engineering courses and put the skills to good use in one big, year-long project. Students identify broad problems they experience in the world, determine a specific aspect of the problem, and develop solutions.

Our (working) solution includes a sunglasses-like visor attached to a track along the inside ceiling of the vehicle. The visor automatically moves back and forth according to the sun’s position relative to the vehicle’s front windshield per sensor and GPS data.

When starting our prototype, we took apart an old HP printer to get the metal rod and track. Then we had to learn how to use a mill/drill press to cut a large aluminum piece and separate a section of the rod.

Just recently, we took a field trip to the South Bend UPS center to talk to a handful of the package car drivers before they headed out for the day. We chose UPS because one of our administrators works the evening shift, in addition to me working part-time during the holiday season.

When we arrived, the first drivers were coming into work and clocking in. One by one, we introduced ourselves to them and asked for a few minutes of their time. Tess and I talked about our project and asked for input. The drivers offered helpful insight, suggestions, and constructive criticism for our project. Almost all of the UPS drivers were supportive and said they’d like to see something similar to our project in their package cars.

Afterward, we got to listen to their PCM (Pre-Trip Communication Meeting) and get pumped up with the other drivers. Soon after, we watched the trucks roll out one by one, everyone ready to take on the day.

Aside from our project, we learned about how UPS operates, the technology they currently use in the package cars, and their route-optimization efforts.

EDD is the best example of how PLTW exposes students to real-world problems, scenarios, and people, and prepares students for the workforce and global economy.

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.