Tucker Swanson works on a robot in the pre-engineering program at Region 10 Technical High School. (Contributed photo)

TOPSHAM — Mt. Ararat High School students can get some additional exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines this fall, thanks to a new pre-engineering course.

The year-long course offered at Mt. Ararat features hands-on projects and applications like those found in robotics. The program is based on an introduction to engineering design course developed by Project Lead the Way, an organization offering engineering curriculums and programs to schools. Nick Charles, a professional engineer with experience in ship systems design, will teach the course.

Mt. Ararat’s pre-engineering course comes courtesy of Brunswick-based Region 10 Technical High School, which started its own two-year pre-engineering program last year.

“We currently do not have that type of program here but would like to have that opportunity here for students who would like to do a lot of preparation to go into those mathematics and science type of studies,” said Donna Brunette, Mt. Ararat High School principal.

As Mt. Ararat High School shifts to the nationally recommended standards, the district recognizes the need for more STEM opportunities for high school students in addition to their basic study of science – physics, chemistry, biology, etc., Brunette said.

“It’s a more integrated program that has a variety of focus areas,” she said. “The pre-engineering course is one that will allow more hands-on opportunities.”

It also requires applying a higher order of thinking skills, she said.

Brunette believes the pre-engineering course will provide exposure to students considering engineering in the future and allow teachers to see how a STEM program functions while housed within the school.

College applicants with a pre-engineering course under their belt in high school have an advantage, according to Dana Humphrey, a civil engineer and the Dean of Engineering at the University of Maine.

“Pre-engineering programs at the high school level are excellent,” he said. “It exposes students to what being an engineer is really like and gives them some base level skills, so it gives them a leg up when starting college in engineering and helps encourage more students to pursue a career in engineering.”

UMaine takes in about 500 engineering students a year – including first-year and transfer students, and those who stand out have taken pre-engineering courses.

Mt. Ararat normally has about 100 students participating in Region 10 programs, which is about 5-6% of the high school enrollment. Having the pre-engineering course at Mt. Ararat makes it easier for students to fit it into their schedule, as they would not need to travel from Topsham to Brunswick to take that course, according to R10 Superintendent Nancy Weed.

Brunette said the 350-hour afternoon pre-engineering course is open to students in grades 9-12. Students have shown interest, but she didn’t have a final count Tuesday. The school is aiming for a class of 10-15 students this year.

Brunette said a student who engages in a year-long Region 10 program typically earns three credits for an elective. Pre-engineering won’t replace a math or science requirement. Mt. Ararat requires 21.25 credits for a diploma – four years of English and three years or science, math and social studies. Adjustments to those requirements are allowed for a three-year Region 10 student to ensure they can meet their credit requirements, she said.

Weed suggested students interested in the pre-engineering program contact their school guidance counselor and reach out to John Stivers at Region 10 Technical High School at (207) 729-6622 or email [email protected]

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