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Opening of high school engineering lab feted

By: Patty McAlpin, Reporter
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School district officials unveiled Lincoln High School’s new engineering lab with a ribbon cutting and celebration Nov. 5.

Thirty-five people participated in the celebration, including Western Placer Unified School Board members Kris Wyatt, Paul Long and Paul Carras; Superintendent Scott Leaman, Assistant Superintendent Mary Boyle, district Facilities Planner Heather Steer, district Director of Technology Bob Lyons, Principal Jay Berns, engineering instructor Scott Seacrist, Lincoln City Councilman Paul Joiner, Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Romness, four Lowe’s employees, and officials from Sierra College, 49er ROP and LEED (Linking Education and Economic Development).

“This is fantastic,” Long said. “It’s really, really exciting.”

Students started using the high school’s Project Lead the Way Engineering Lab during a summer camp that took place in June.

Beginning and advanced engineering students started learning in the new lab at the beginning of this school year. Seacrist teaches a beginning engineering course to 60 students and an advanced course to 30 students.
The opening of the lab is part of the district’s overall focus to offer students career and college training at the high school level to prepare them to enter the workforce. The district hopes to add another higher level engineering course next school year. The ultimate goal is to offer college credit courses starting in the freshman year. By the time a student graduates he or she could earn 16 engineering course college credits.

Sierra College wrote a grant for $250,000 in 2007/08 school year for Senate Bill 70 funds which were dedicated for developing career technical education in conjunction with community colleges. Seacrist helped write the grant. The purpose of the grant is to provide training for entry level jobs for students leaving high school in the areas of automated manufacturing and automated design. The other purposes are to provide a feeder program for Sierra College’s Mechatronics Program (robotics program) and develop student interest in engineering programs at four-year colleges. The grant allowed Lincoln High School to develop a one-trimester class called I-Design. The grant money provided for some of the machinery for computer assisted manufacturing and teacher training, computers and software.

Last year, the district expanded the engineering program to include a four-year sequence of classes through the Project Lead the Way Engineering Program. The district used curriculum, instruction and technology funding to continue to develop the program. 

Steer estimated the cost to retrofit the approximately 3,000-square-foot Project Lead the Way Engineering Lab space at $307,800, including furniture. The architect for the project was Marcher Covington Architects Inc.

Assistant Superintendent Mary Boyle said without a grant from Lowe’s the district would have to abandon the project.

Mike Obeso, Lincoln Lowe’s store manager, said he pushed to have the stores in the region, which includes Northern California and parts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah, consider Lincoln High School’s project for the region’s major education grant. The high school was awarded $94,000.

“What a difference,” Obeso said. “When I walked through here before this was an auto shop. This is a lot more modern. It looks great.”

The room had been an agriculture/mechanics shop since 1963. The agriculture/mechanics shop was moved to the 200-acre Lincoln High School Farm on Walker Lane.

A dividing wall with a window separates the computer lab from the machine work space.

Al Seacrist, Scott Seacrist’s dad, finished building eight cabinets for the lab in two days.

The computer lab has 32 new computers paid for by district technology funding. The 10 manufacturing machines have a larger home.

Steer said both the computer lab and the large manufacturing machines were in the auto shop lab. The machines were taking up space in the bays where cars were typically brought in for service. The computer lab was in a small area sectioned off with temporary walls.

Visitors watched Seacrist’s students use the manufacturing machines during the celebration Nov. 5.

Senior Kean Lee, 17, used a manufacturing machine to carve the Subaru logo into an acrylic plastic block. He said the exposure to manufacturing spurred him to take another engineering course.

Enrollment in the high school’s engineering program requires concurrent enrollment in college preparatory classes such as physics, Algebra II and pre-Calculus.

Freshman Brandon Lessard, 14, said he likes building.

“This takes me back to the days I used to play with LEGOS,” Lessard said.

Seacrist told the visitors he asked some of his students to draw a cube and manufacture the toy. Each cube is a 2.25-inch square. Each sub cube is three-quarter-inch.

“I asked the students to challenge their parents,” Seacrist quipped. “One dad told his daughter she’d be grounded if she didn’t show him how to figure it out.”

Principal Berns said the engineering courses help students with problem solving and critical thinking.

“Kids are encouraged to think outside the box,” Berns said. “They develop projects on the computer and build them.”