Engineering students get head start

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 1:14 PM

Rachel J. Trotter

OGDEN — Engineering students in Ogden and Weber school districts are graduating from high school ready for real life.

The students have participated in Project Lead the Way, a national program designed to prepare students to enter college not only with some college credits in hand, but with practical work experience as well.

Roger Snow is one of the teachers at Ogden High School, and he works with local businesses, so they in turn work with students on senior projects. Some of those students also work into internships with the businesses.

They also partner with Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College so students can take more advanced classes in their fields.

Jeffrey Meyer, the work-based learning coordinator for Weber School District, also works with businesses to help students find internships during their senior year, and the students spend many hours working on projects with businesses as well.

Bonneville High School senior Elizabeth Radcliffe gave a brief presentation on the structural design she helped create for a building in Park City through her internship with ARW Engineers.

She showed the layers of beams she put in place on a computer program, and spoke excitedly about the project as she shuffled through many computer screens displaying the work she had completed over the term.

“I didn’t know there was any such thing as a structural engineer, and then I started doing this,” she said as she pointed to her intricate design work.

Radcliffe will attend the University of Utah in the fall with a full-tuition scholarship and valuable work experience as she advances to a degree in civil engineering. She feels she has a leg up on other students because she has already worked in the field.

Guyon Brenna is also getting practical work experience during his senior year. The Ogden High School senior has been working with the Solid Works program at Ogden-Weber Tech in the evenings. He is close to getting his certification and should be making some good money before many of his classmates even start their first day of college.

Brenna never dreamed he’d being doing something he loved and working as a professional so soon after school — but that goal is within his immediate grasp.

Ogden High senior Caitlin Makin already has a business plan and is moving forward quickly from her practical work experience with Project Lead the Way.

In her civil engineering class, her team redesigned a warehouse into a library. As Caitlin worked on it, she realized she would like to do something along those lines for a career — but her goal is to combine building design with the more tangible aspects of the finished product. She is starting a restoration business while she attends Weber State University after graduation.

Snow has been impressed with Ogden businesses and how eager they are to work with and help high school students break into the engineering and architecture fields.

“The hardest part is helping them (the students) to discover their interests. Once they focus on a particular field of study they can take off,” Snow said.

The businesses have also been helpful with the students in that way, he said.

The partnership with Ogden-Weber Tech is also invaluable because those teachers and advisers help train the students to be ready for the real world upon graduation.

“It’s a good option. It’s not the only option, but good, real world experience,” Snow said.

Fremont senior Tiffany Varnell said she has loved being a part of Project Lead the Way, because the hands-on work helps her decide whether she really wants to work in that field.

“I have learned by doing,” she said. “It’s not just lectures I’m expected to memorize.”

She enjoys working in groups because she knows that’s how it will be in the real world and even in college. She plans to go into architecture and feels that, because of the hands-on work she has already had just in her engineering classes, she is prepared.

She has done an internship at Golden State Internship and hopes it will turn into a paid internship once she graduates and starts college.

Meyer said many of the internships turn out that way once students have proven themselves and put in the hours. He feels the internships have been vital for his students’ success.

For complete listings of each school's graduates see the Standard-Examiner's e-edition.

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