Lathrop to offer engineering class

Claire Knox, Stampede Reporter

Notebooks in hand and heads filled with formulas and anticipation, a group of aspiring engineers load onto a bus destined for a humble location. Eventually it arrives, and everyone rushes off, eager to start their project. Where are they? To some, it would appear to be an old bridge, but to the future students of the new Into to Engineering class, the possibilities are endless.

                Starting in August, physics teacher Mike Lathrop will be teaching his students all about the wonderful world of engineering. In the case of the bridge, they will be learning  how to design a strong, efficient bridge, from the dimensions and location to the minute details such as the placement of the bolts.

                “I’m really excited about the class,” Lathrop said. The yearlong class will cover everything from basic everyday problem solving to algorithms and looping structures.

                It will be a project-based class, with students working together in groups to engineer in practical, real- life situations. Lathrop said that groups will have to be chosen carefully, as they will be far more professional and serious than your average lab partner in science class. Each group will contain people with different talents, such as a business person to deal with the cost analysis, an artsy person for the design, and a math whiz to calculate the formulas.

                Field trips are also a possibility. Lathrop hopes to be able to take his students to meet with professionals and experience environments that directly relate to the various fields of engineering.

“I would love to actually go [to engineering sites],” he said.

                Students may also have the opportunity to see their schoolwork come to life.  A possibility would be to calculate and figure out exactly what it would take to outfit CMR with lights powered with renewable energy. If it was a practical idea, the group would propose it to the school.

                According to Lathrop, engineering is in high demand right now, and he encourages any students with an interest in engineering to give the class a try.

 “There is such a huge need for individuals that have engineering skills,” Lathrop said.  “It’s just a great field to get into right now; the prospects are nearly limitless.”

 As of the beginning of March, there were about 140 engineering jobs available just in Montana, and that number is always growing, he said.

                Lathrop also said that he will cater the class to individual students and their interests. If a student is interested in a particular field of engineering, he will assign projects and problems that have to do with that field, and let the students explore and figure out what they really want to do.

“The class is really about the students. I’m learning as much as they are,” he said. “It’s not just math and science kids. All types of kids are needed for an efficient group to be formed.”