ADDISON – Ever since Trent Treiber can remember, he's wanted to be an engineer working on rides at Disney World.
With a start in the Pathway to Engineering program at the Technology Center of DuPage in Addison, Treiber is enrolled to begin classes at the University of South Florida in the fall.
"It's given them basically a head start into career exploration," said Brian Clement, an instructor for the program's senior capstone class, Engineering Design and Development.
The Pathway program is a curriculum developed by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The program is meant to keep the United States globally competitive and get students prepared for high-paying, high-skilled jobs in STEM areas.
"Programs like this are expensive to run, and we have basically all the resources set up to run these engineering courses," Clement said.
Juniors and seniors from 14 member school districts participate in 20 career and technical education programs at the Technology Center of DuPage that include everything from cosmetology and culinary to fire science and early childhood education and care.
Treiber is one of 13 students who spend about two hours of their school day Monday through Friday at the center, working on their final innovations or inventions, which they showcased Wednesday to a panel of local engineers.
"It's pretty amazing some of the stuff that they worked on and came up with," Clement said.
The seniors began their semester brainstorming problems they wanted to address. Some of the inventions the students have spent the semester working on – with the help of engineering mentors – include a transitioning baby window visor, a multi-density mechanical pencil and a shoe that can charge a battery while you walk.
Treiber and his classmate Deon Garcia are both seniors at Lake Park High School in Roselle. They spent the semester developing an application that will play music while a person wearing a heart rate monitor exercises, but pause that music when that person's heart rate drops below a set target.
"We're trying to tackle some of the weight issues in America," Treiber said.
The students needed to learn how to code in order to develop their app. Garcia, who plans to study civil engineering like his father, said that was one of the biggest challenges of the project.
"So far we're at a stopping point because we have to get it approved by Apple," Garcia added.
Fellow Lake Park students Kevin Kovach and Bhumik Patel presented their heated landscape blower during the showcase. Inspired by the past winter's record cold and snow, the students wanted to add a heating element to a traditional leaf blower to remove ice.
"It's just like an engineer would present their innovation or invention," Clement said, describing the Engineering Showcase.
Similarly, he explained the work that students do in class resembles that of an actual engineer.
Kovach said his interest in engineering goes as far back as his Lego days. He plans to attend College of DuPage this fall, but is still deciding what type of engineering he wants to pursue in college. With many decisions still ahead of him, Kovach knows he's enjoyed his time in the Pathway to Engineering program.
"It's a lot more fun than just normal school," Kovach said.
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For more information about Technology Center of DuPage programs, visit www.tcdupage.org.
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