By Ari Case
On January 5, three GS teams competed against seven other teams at the Kennametal Facility in Latrobe, and two teams placed in the top three for points.
Through the Kennametal Young Engineers Program (KYEP), students from several schools in the area are given the opportunity to work with real-world engineering problems and professional engineers themselves. The hands-on tasks in class involve research, problem solving, design and building.
“The Kennametal Young Engineers program is an opportunity sponsored by [the] Kennametal Corporation in Latrobe that allows students to delve into the world of engineering and gain skills that are necessary for that and other careers,” science teacher Mrs. Cheryl Harper said.
Many skills can be learned through the class, in the classroom and at KYEP sessions.
“There’s the opportunity to connect with current engineers and [to] work on resume skills [and] leadership skills,” Mrs. Harper said. “And as the students work on their projects throughout the semester, there are a lot of group projects where they have to be organized and communicative and such throughout.”
The team tactics and connections built can be extremely beneficial for any student, and in addition to these general skills, students learn engineering principles and gain understanding of processes and problems in the engineering field.
According to Harper, the class “isn’t just for students interested in engineering,” at all.
Several KYEP participants over the six years of the program have been completely uninterested in pursuing a career in engineering, but benefitted from the class greatly, nonetheless.
“It can be a deciding factor as to whether that’s really what you want to do,” Harper said. “But some people enter the class without any desire to do engineering. They just want a hands-on class that is relevant and allows them to work closely with others in a group setting. It certainly is an experience that can be expanded upon.”
Other students, though, are bound for the engineering field.
“I plan on doing aeronautical engineering through the Air Force,” senior Emily King said. “I’ve been interested in engineering for a very long time. [I] just never had the opportunity for [a] hands-on experience.”
This year, three teams of students have been working for almost three months to create contraptions to aim and launch ping pong balls. This may sound like a simple task, but there are specifications and restraints that make it complex to design.
King is a member of the group that placed 3rd in the competition by points. Their design involved a motor blowing air through adjustable PVC pipes that shot out the ping pong balls. She was responsible for the computer-aided design (CAD) throughout the process.
In addition to presenting the actual build at the competition, each team had to create a binder with detailed entries and diagrams following the entire process.
“With the binders, it was pretty stressful because it made everyone contribute,” senior Lexi Mutchler said. “It wasn’t just one person’s job. [And it] was a lot of hours outside of school.”
Mutchler was the leader of the 1st place group. They created a “caveman-like” design with a golf club and elastic band. Though they had less power to make it the longest distance, the accuracy was higher than any other team.
Harper said that the work required for the binders showed “incredible professional growth” for every student.
Each team had strengths and weaknesses, and varying successes and failures along the way.
“I won’t forget the shock we had when we actually made it into the cup,” King said.
Mutchler’s team also wasn’t expecting the success they had. There were some disappointments as well.
“For our project, we couldn’t make the five meters,” she said. “We made it to four meters, but that’s it. That’s the only disappointing thing; it couldn’t go as far as it should have.”
King’s team encountered an issue with their cooling fan shortly into the competition that set them back a bit. Before this, though, there were some hiccups throughout the development process.
“I think our group kind of forgot about all that was required [until] the last week before it was due,” King explained. “So, we were running around and worried it wasn’t [going to] get done. So maybe if we worked on more time management, and just making sure we check everything off that checklist, we would have been on better footing.”
Despite these regrets, both felt they truly benefitted from the experience.
“In the end, though, it felt really good [because] seeing all of our hard work pay off it felt so good to see them work,” Mutchler said.
There was one thing both agreed upon fully: Harper was the reason for their success.
“Without her I don’t think I would have had the self-discipline or self-responsibility to get everything done that needed done,” King said.