Peek into a St. Michael engineering class, and you will find about 20 students working hard on the assigned hands-on project for any given unit. What you might also notice is how in each class, the boys certainly outnumber the girls.
In a predominantly male atmosphere, senior Kennedy Seelbach excels. When asked about the boy to girl ratio of the class, she immediately answers, “We all have different strengths. It’s not a boy or a girl thing. Some people are better at coding and computers, and others are better at conceptualizing and building.”
Growing up, Kennedy knew early on that she had a knack for math and science, particularly chemistry. “My mom always told me she thought I would make a good engineer. So I wanted to try this class while I was still in high school,” she mentioned. “I have always enjoyed math and science and this class has confirmed my decision to major in engineering in college.”
Kennedy took her love for math and science and has applied it in every course that she can…literally! For her senior service religion project, Kennedy used the engineering class to her advantage. “My senior service project was on the death penalty,” she said. “I used the 3D printer to make my creative elements.”
St. Michael seniors spend the year researching and studying social justice topics allowing them to see the dignity of every human person. They then work throughout the year to build a presentation on the issue of their choice. At the end of the school year, students are required to present their projects to their classmates, family members, and members of the community while also incorporating a visual representation that portrays what their project stands for, i.e. the creative aspect.
While students are allowed to use a multitude of arenas to create and present their creative aspects, Kennedy knew of one way in particular that would be different yet perfect. At the beginning of the school year the engineering students were given access to the schools two 3D printers as well as their iPad Pro and Shapr3D app with two restrictions: It had to be approved by the engineering teacher, and they had to design it on their own. When asked about this, Kennedy stated “Coach Leger, showed us the website(s) for the 3D printing at the beginning of the year,” she goes on, “When I noticed some of the boys in the class using it all the time, I had the idea to use the printer for my senior project. I created all my elements in the website at home then printed them in class.” As Kennedy began to design and print the elements for her project, her teacher also began to take notice. “Kennedy has always been a strong student in my course,” Engineering teacher and Department Head, Zach Leger stated. “She began to print these interesting pieces that grabbed my attention and once I realized what she was doing, I was more than happy to help. She is a great example of what this course can teach kids and an even better example of the power of girls in STEM.”
Kennedy successfully designed an electric chair, a syringe, a gas chamber, a rifle, and a gallows for her service project using TinkerCad 3D and the schools Makerbot Replicator + and SnapMaker 3D printer.
As the engineering program’s first year wraps up, students have completed projects in civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering as well as data analysis and now system and aerial engineering. “What we are currently working on with aerial imaging gives us lots of free range to use everything we’ve learned in one project,” says Kennedy. “This has by far been one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. I’ve enjoyed every part of it,” she says with a smile.
Meanwhile, as her senior year comes to a close, Kennedy will be preparing for her freshman year at Mississippi State where she plans to major in Mechanical Engineering.