Garland High School advanced engineering students are experiencing real-world application, thanks to an initiative fueled by Southern Methodist University (SMU). The Smart Infrastructure Innovation Initiative (S3i) brings the high schoolers and their collegiate counterparts together to work on a city of Garland project.
“We had an idea of trying to blur the lines between an engineering student in a high school setting and an engineering student in college. We wanted to allow these two types of students to interact with each other and work on research projects that have significant value,” said technology applications teacher Nicole Story. “SMU is researching structural impairment detection. We needed a bridge to work on, and the city was really supportive and wanting to participate.”
A meeting with the city’s engineer led to the Briarwood bridge project. Throughout the year, GHS and SMU students have met every A day to work on the assignment, conducting experiments using sensors, collecting data and recording their findings. Considering recent headlines about bridges collapsing, the project is both relevant and enlightening.
“This project is bringing the calculations we do in the classroom to the real world. Working on it makes us aware of how safe the bridges are,” said sophomore Randy Arias. “We are learning how to take data and how to apply that data to see if this bridge is safe for use. This project also shows us how to work as a team and work with professional colleagues.”
Story hopes to expand S3i’s impact to nonengineering students, as well. The project produced a creative space in Story’s classroom named Innovation Gymnasium.
“We want to open up this space before or after school and have students take ownership of it without the fear of failure,” Story said. “We want to talk about ideas and have their really fantastic, creative imaginations come up with questions. The whole motto of our Innovation Gym is, ‘I don’t know. Let’s figure it out.’”