Applied Engineering for the 21st Century classroom

My name is David Kephart, and I am the Applied Engineering teacher at Hanalani. I have always enjoyed building things and working with my hands, and teaching Applied Engineering gives me the opportunity to use that passion every day to teach students critical thinking and problem solving skills through hands-on projects.

In our recently renovated maker space, the students in Applied Engineering have the opportunity to make projects come to life using many different resources from simple hand tools to 3D printers.  Our Applied Engineering courses give the students many opportunities to practice critical thinking and problem solving in real world settings. Students have the opportunity to join Applied Engineering in 9th grade and may continue in the program throughout high school. Our Applied Engineering students are taught the design thinking process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Students practice these skills and prototype their projects in our makerspace. Students go through an extensive tool training process and are also trained in design programs to create 3D printed prototypes of various projects. Once the students understand design thinking and have had a chance to practice the process through classroom oriented design challenges, they are then tasked with solving real life problems.
In 2015 students from the Applied Engineering class were asked to use the design thinking process to do a complete renovation of the school library. Students were given a $100,000 budget and spent the whole year researching, interviewing, designing, and prototyping a 21st Century library. The school then hired contractors to come and complete the project based on the designs that the students recommended.
In 2016 students were asked to renovate the Founder’s Hall. Once again the students implemented design thinking to research, interview, design, prototype, and test. Through this process, students were able to create a flexible space that has become one of the most popular hangout spots on campus.
The current class of Applied Engineering students are involved in one of the biggest student led projects Hanalani Schools has ever seen. The students completed an energy audit of the campus to determine the effects of an LED retrofit of the campus. Students determined that by converting to LED lighting in the Student Activity Center alone would result in a yearly savings of $17,000. The students are currently working on planning the retrofit with contractors to move ahead with the student activity center. The goal is to eventually retrofit the entire campus with LED lighting and become a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified campus. The savings from the LED conversion can then be used for other projects on campus. Through our engineering program, students are constantly challenged to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills in real life applications.