Meet Sean Webb, a first year student at Calhoun Community College. His story is one that highlights how important real-world projects are in STEM education. For Sean the project that did it was Greenpower.
As a high school sophomore, Sean was an average student without much interest in school. Not particularly interested in engineering and without a career plan, Sean picked a tech class as an easy way to fill two electives. When he started the first year drafting class at Huntsville Center of Technology (HCT) while learning the basics of drafting, Sean took an interest in design. He knew he had to maintain good grades to continue coming to the HCT because Mike Evans, the drafting design teacher, set high standards for his students. This encouraged Sean to do better in school. His parents noticed improved grades and increased interest in school.
During his second year at HCT, Sean was part of the group of students that used Solid Edge to reverse engineer standard parts on the Greenpower Kit car. Sean asked Mike if he could actually put together the kit car. As part of the Greenpower design team, his interest in design and engineering really took off. He got to work with materials such carbon fiber and fiberglass that other students coming out of high school never have the opportunity to use. By working with industry engineering mentors and with machine shops, he learned the entire design and manufacturing process.
Sean also learned about design for manufacturability – designing parts that can indeed be machined. He says the biggest surprise was the length of time it takes to build the mold and produce parts. Minor setback can cause weeks of delay. To meet a deadline, the students worked all day laying up carbon fiber for the top mold. Their industry mentor needed a quick turnaround because the autoclave was only available on the weekend. Greenpower teaches students valuable lessons in the real-world manufacturing from design to time management.
Sean continued to excel as a student and looked into pursuing drafting and design in college. He opted to begin with a two-year program at a local community college. He received nine credit hours for his coursework that included his Greenpower project work.
Greenpower helped put him ahead in the college class. He is already taking upper levels courses in his second semester, including Intermediate Drawing and Design and Rapid Prototyping. He has made the dean’s list and has been invited to join the honor society. Sean continues to be a part of the Team USA Greenpower team and will be at the June 9th regional heat.
Thanks to my colleague Patricia Jebeles for this article and images. Stay tuned for more from me and Patricia as we travel to Goodwood Motor Circuit for the race.