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Best of the Week 2018-2019: Excellence in College Prep


On Tuesday, Engineering Department Chair Mr. Matt Falk '98 accompanied his IB Design Tech students on a field trip to the NASA Glenn Research Center, where they went behind-the-scenes and delved deeper into understanding the technology used at NASA. Students first engaged with a panel of speakers who spoke about the various career paths in manufacturing offered through NASA, providing students with a networking opportunity to ask questions and connect with professionals in the field. "Students were able to talk with engineers and machinists who operate multi-million dollar CNC mills and lathes, wire EDM machines and custom equipment for making components that are in use on the ISS and satellites today," says Mr. Falk. "The visit to NASA itself provided an opportunity for my students to see what pathways are available for those who want to enter the world of manufacturing engineering and micromachining."

After the panel discussion, students toured the different facilities around the research center and saw firsthand how NASA manufactures prototypes for the aeronautical industry, space flight and space exploration. Students were also able to get their hands on various types of virtual reality and augmented reality systems like Microsoft HoloLenses, mixed reality smartglasses developed and manufactured by Microsoft, and Oculus Rift goggles, which are virtual reality headsets developed and manufactured by Oculus VR, a division of Facebook Inc. In NASA's Slope Lab, students played around with an augmented reality sandbox, a sandbox exhibit combined with 3D visualization applications by researchers at UC Davis. As students molded the sand by hand, real-time augmented reality changed the projected elevation, color, topographic lines and simulated water on the sand with every touch. Mr. Falk and other faculty members on the trip were immediately inspired and decided to build a replica of their own at St. Ed's.

Since the field trip, Mr. Falk, his students and fellow faculty members are almost finished with the construction of the sandbox and have been working on setting up a computer to operate the sensor and projection unit for their very own augmented reality sandbox. Their hope is to have the augmented reality sandbox up and running by this Sunday's Open House for prospective students. "NASA uses some pretty impressive pieces of technology in their manufacturing that is slightly more advanced versions of the equipment that students have access to here at St. Ed's," says Mr. Falk. "Seeing those machines used in the industry shows our students that what they are doing in the classroom right now is extremely relevant." Not only did this trip to the NASA Glenn Research Center provide students with an informational experience and an opportunity to network with NASA professionals, but it also inspired them to bring new ideas from the professional world to life at St. Ed's.

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