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Oakland Catholic High School is E.P.I.C.

Jan 01, 2017 03:20PM ● Published by North Hills Monthly magazine

One of the most basic joys of learning for faculty and students is the “aha” moment. The point when seemingly disparate lessons connect to create a solution to a complex problem. E.P.I.C (Engineering Principles Including Challenges) is a new course at Oakland Catholic High School that aims to elicit many of these “aha” moments by closely intermingling engineering principles across Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, and even Art.

The course was created by Oakland Catholic High School faculty members Steve Graner, Nathan Sendgikoski, Amanda Skoner, and Nancy White, who participated in professional development through the Human Engineering Research Lab with the University of Pittsburgh all last year. White learned about the course while attending a summer program and recruited Sendgikoski, Skoner, and Graner to join her in this intense academic commitment. Working as one of four teacher teams throughout the course, the OC instructors tackled the problem of creating a coin-dispensing product for an individual with a physical disability. Each of the participants brought different strengths as representatives of four different scientific disciplines.  Skoner commented, “I appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with physics and health teachers, and believe that we created a very dynamic course because of our various backgrounds.”

In addition to a semester of applied learning, this course required faculty members to create a teaching unit. After some discussion, the Oakland Catholic faculty participants decided that a single unit would not suffice, and chose to cultivate a new class at Oakland Catholic High School. White says, “With the support of our Administration, we decided to initiate a semester course that teaches the design process, via a specific unit on a concrete problem that requires students to discover an authentic solution.” From this concept, E.P.I.C. at Oakland Catholic High School was born. The course has been a success for the students and for the faculty who conceived it. Skoner reflected, “It has been inspiring to see students work towards a goal, especially when that goal is for someone in need.” 

The honors level course is truly college preparatory for the Oakland Catholic High School students who register for it. Not only are they learning engineering design and documentation, but they are also encountering complex problem solving within a team setting. During the course, students are presented with a challenge, such as tackling an aspect of the global water crisis, and must use principles they have learned to find a solution to the problem. Themes and problems will change each semester and there will also be a competition aspect to the course. Students from Oakland Catholic High School will compete against other student groups in the region to present the design solution they created for the challenge that semester. The winner will have the ability to access the Human Engineering Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Conception of the E.P.I.C. course at Oakland Catholic High School is another illustration of the school’s continued commitment to bring opportunities to its students in the STEM fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. 
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