Catholic Standard El Pregonero
Classifieds Buy Photos

Innovative engineering program at Carroll High School offers students ‘the best chance at whatever is next in life for them’

David Warmington, a senior in Archbishop Carroll High School’s Engineering Pathway curriculum, works on a project. Michelle Ming, the director of the program, says by offering “fun and really cool” classwork, the goal is to introduce all facets of engineering to students who might not otherwise see that as a potential career. (Photo courtesy of Archbishop Carroll High School)

For more than five years, Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C. has offered an innovative STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Engineering Pathway program that its director says helps her students see the limitless potential their futures hold.

“I want my students to be able to understand and see God has a plan for their lives, and they must use all the resources at their disposal,” said Michelle Ming, director of Carroll’s Project Lead the Way/Engineering Pathway. “I ask a great deal of them (the students). We are talking about discipline, growth in who we are, and expanding our God-given capacity to succeed.”

The program at Carroll – a coeducational high school sponsored by The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington – began during the 2015-16 school year, and offers classes for students who wish to study engineering. It is offered in partnership with Project Lead the Way (PLTW).

Project Lead the Way is a nationwide program that has created kindergarten through 12th grade applied learning STEM courses that it says will “engage students in hands-on activities, projects, and problems; empower them to solve real-world challenges; and inspire them to reimagine how they see themselves.” It also provides teachers with training, resources, and support to better serve their students.

Wenzel Burton, an engineering design teacher at Carroll, called Project Lead the Way “an amazing program that allows me to prepare our students to meet the learning and workplace challenges of the 21st century.” He said the “imaginative, independent and collaborative work for students” enables them “to become productive global citizens. At Archbishop Carroll High School, we strive to create the engineers of tomorrow. "

Carroll students who embark on the Engineering Pathway take math and science classes that are interactive and involve critical thinking. Among the courses offered are Introduction to Engineering, Principles of Engineering, Digital Electronics, Engineering Design and Development, and Computer Science Principles.

The school also has a junior chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.

Above from left, Caleb Swain, Kingsley John III, and Demi Butler and below, Kyle Jackson-Chang – all former or current students in Archbishop Carroll High School’s engineering courses – work on circuit theory and circuit design. Other courses involve 3D modeling software, sequential logic design, creating prototypes, app development, cybersecurity and other engineering aspects. (Photos courtesy of Archbishop Carroll High School)

Senior David Warmington, who has been in the program since his freshman year, said that he is “leaning toward electrical engineering” as a major in college once he graduates. He credits his decision on his participation in Carroll’s Engineering Pathway program.

An accomplished athlete who runs track for his school and is also a saxophonist, Warmington said that when he first came to Carroll he was focused on music and track until he took the engineering classes. He admitted that when he first started in the program “it was a tough class, but in the back of my mind I thought, ‘I could do this.’” He said that his interest in electrical engineering was fueled by learning the inner workings of traffic lights and how motion sensors are used to regulate and time them.

Ming credits the success of the program to the fact that “we have a lot of fun and we do really cool stuff. This is interesting engineering.”

“The exposure (to engineering) is important because you don’t know what you don’t know,” she said. “I try to keep things fresh, I try to keep things current.”

In Carroll’s engineering courses, students are exposed to 3D modeling software, sequential logic design, circuit theory and circuit design, creating prototypes (most recently a toy car for marketing at Christmas), and app development, cybersecurity and other engineering aspects. In addition, students have the opportunity to earn three college credits in engineering by taking a class at the nearby Catholic University of America.

“We train them to use their brains,” said Ming, who holds an applied mathematics degree and who formerly worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where she supported space shuttle launches by testing the software that analyzed shuttle data.

This past school year, Project Lead the Way honored Ming with its Outstanding Educator Award and Carroll named her its Veteran Teacher of the Year. Ming also published a book, “Love Teaching.”

“I want to help students find something that helps expand them and realize God has plans for them and they exist for a reason,” she said. “I want them to know they are God-created, and there is a point to their lives.”

For senior Ruth Mogus, the Engineering Pathway program offered “the most difficult classes I’ve ever taken. But, I thought if another human could do it, then I could do it. I started to love it (the classes) more and more and thought, ‘I am not going to give up on this.’”

The program created in her an interest in learning “how buildings are made, how they are made with such accuracy. I was eager to learn more about that.” Despite her interest in mechanical engineering, Mogus plans to pursue a career in medicine, perhaps using the advances in medical technology.

Carroll principal Elana Gilmore said that by exposing engineering opportunities to the students, “we give our students the best chance at whatever is next in life for them.” She also added that it could lead to “more diversity in the field of STEM.”

Herself a former biologist, Gilmore said that when she was practicing her science, “I realized I was one of the few females – and often the only African American – in the industry.”

“It is really important to me to have students of color exposed to science because it is not something that they necessarily gravitate to, be it from lack of exposure or resources,” she said. “By expanding the science program (at Carroll), students have an opportunity to not just look at these careers on TV and dream about them, but to have the experience to explore them further.”

Carroll’s Engineering Pathway program includes hands-on activities and projects designed to challenge students and engage them in critical thinking. (Photo courtesy of Archbishop Carroll High School)

Ming said that whatever course of study her engineering students choose to pursue after their graduation from Carroll, the program is important because “it develops critical thinking skills. You need to be able to slide right into college and be successful from the beginning.”

Larry Savoy, president of Archbishop Carroll High School, agreed that the Engineering Pathway program is practical even for those students who do not continue studying the subject in college.

“We’re are continuing to develop well-rounded students. We are not only a college preparatory school, but also a life preparatory school,” he said. “We expose them (students) to real life applications of problem-solving skills, time management skills, critical thinking skills.
 We want to hone those skills that bring students life lessons and that bring glory and honor to God.”

Since its inception at Carroll, slightly more than 60 students each year embark on the Engineering Pathway and about 340 students in total have participated in the program.

“One of the things that I have been pretty intense about is that sometimes it seems like this (engineering program) is a very elitist program,” Ming said. “In some schools you have to test into the program. We are not like that, because there is such a need to expose our kids to what is out there.”

Despite the success of the program, Ming said that she seeks to beef up the program. “I want to add additional classes,” she said. “The sky’s the limit.”

Savoy said that Carroll is looking to create “a dedicated space” in the school that would be solely used for the Engineering Pathway program and its students. “We are planning to not only invest in the program, but in the infrastructure of the program,” he said. “We want to have one of the best maker spaces around with students using the best equipment.”

“There are some great things happening 4300 Harewood Road (the Northeast Washington address of the school) when it comes to engineering,” he said.