Engineering a Future

BV students take engineering classes to prepare for potential jobs

Honors Principles of Engineering 

 As one of the many classes offered at Blue Valley, Honors Principles of Engineering (HPOE) is most commonly swept under the carpet — many students are unaware that the class exists. Instructor Kyle Braden explained what the class is and what the students participate in.

The main goal for the class is that kids decide if they want to be engineers or not, and if they decide they do want to be engineers, what type of engineering they’re interested in the most. “We build bridges out of pasta and Elmer’s Glue and go to a competition as part of our civil engineering unit,” Braden said. “We create circuits and build solar powered cars as part of our environmental engineering and electricity unit. We [also] build a machine that can separate different types of marbles using mechanical sensors for our computer programing unit, and we build ping pong ball launchers as part of our projectile motion unit.”

The industrial science class allows students to pave their paths for the future. Junior Jenna Merry is one of 13 girls enrolled in HPOE, and she said the male-dominated class wasn’t a problem for her.

“I felt like that wouldn’t be an issue in the long run,” Merry said. “It doesn’t make a huge difference as I feel like I can work similarly with guys and girls, so the lack of females was never an issue.”

In the past year, the number of girls taking the class has increased from seven to 13.

“As the years have gone on, and I have been able to get more females to sign up for the class, now the word of mouth is starting to go that direction,” Braden said.

As an easy-going environment, with lots of room to grow, HPOE is always looking to the future.

“I hear from my former students a lot,” Braden said. “They always give me good feedback saying that it helped prepare them for their engineering classes at KU, K-State or Wichita State or wherever they go.”

Whether or not students know what they want to do in the future, HPOE and Braden will guide the way.

“I knew I wanted to go in the architectural side of things, and this class has helped me grow with that and learn more with it, which I greatly appreciate,” Merry said.

Braden has been teaching for nine years and is planning to continue his career.

“If you’re looking for true happiness, Honors Principles of Engineering is the answer,” he said.

CAPS Engineering Strand

Senior Martin Romo was in the CAPS engineering class last semester. Although there are various areas of engineering that can be studied through CAPS, Romo focused on the design process.

“We applied what we learned by using a laser cutter to make a box,” he said. “We learned how the equipment works and made a solar oven.”

One opportunity unique to CAPS is the ability to do real-world projects and present them to engineers. Junior Lily Ehler is currently working on a project to redesign the Johnson County airport.

“They asked the CAPS class to design a new building for the airport that includes offices, a restaurant and a viewing area,” she said. “The project is entirely student-led, so our group is in charge of everything from setting up meetings and consulting with the client to drawing up the building’s actual design.”

Ehler said the CAPS engineering program is entirely project-based, which makes it different from other classes.

“There’s no formal classroom instruction,” she said. “There are four engineering teachers that focus on different aspects of engineering such as architecture, electrical and robotics, and mechanical. You sign up for specific projects in the area that interests you. It makes it really easy to try out different areas since most of what you’re learning is what’s relevant to your current project — a lot like real-world projects.”

Engineers are required to keep engineering notebooks so proper credit can be given to those employed for a given project. CAPS gives their students those same notebooks so they know how to use them in the workplace later.

“After you’re done on the project, someone else might work more on it,” Romo said. “The documentation is really important to know who does what.”

Although Ehler had some engineering experience after taking Drafting I, she said CAPS is a unique opportunity to learn more about the field.

“I’ve always had an interest in architecture, so I wanted to be able to experience what it would be like to have a career in that field,” she said. “CAPS gives you the opportunity to get an idea of what going into that field would be like.