STEAM Program Builds at CFS with Help from Local Engineering Organizations

This year, the CFS STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Department is offering a new course entitled “Introduction to Engineering.” The course is open to 10th grade students who successfully completed the 9th grade Technology, Engineering and Design course and have expressed an interest in continuing to learn about engineering as a potential career. The aim of the course is to provide students with an authentic engineering experience by exposing them to professional simulation and analysis software. The course is taught by its creator, Jeff Andrews, a former Lockheed Martin engineer.

Numerous local businesses are donating both software and consulting expertise to the course: Exton-based Bentley Systems is providing free licenses for its OpenRoads software, AGI (located directly behind CFS) is providing educational licenses for its Systems Took Kit (STK) software and McMahon Associates, Inc.’s Exton office and Chester Valley Engineers in Paoli have lent critical expertise to the students. Additionally, the Scholler Foundation of Paoli and the VWR Charitable Foundation have funded the purchase of mini desktop computers and a drone imaging package. The first iteration of this semester-long course has just concluded, and students were able to gain hands-on experience in two areas of engineering: traffic and transportation and satellite design and analysis. Matt Kozsuch, vice president and general manager of the Exton office of McMahon Associates, Inc. visited the class in October and talked about roadway design, traffic density and the tools available for surveying traffic. McMahon loaned an electronic counting board, which the students used to sample traffic at the intersection of Route 30 and Valley Creek Blvd. To understand the traffic entering and exiting the CFS campus, students designed a survey which was delivered to all faculty and staff. Combining this data with traffic projections from a study (commissioned by CFS in 2015) provided all the inputs necessary for the class to analyze the need for a dedicated left turning lane to enter the campus.

Using an Excel spreadsheet available from PennDOT, the students determined that a new 75-foot turning lane on Valley Creek Boulevard would be necessary to comply with PennDOT design compliance standards (warrants). Design of the new campus entrance roads was accomplished with Bentley Systems’ OpenRoads software. Two candidate designs were created and compared on the basis of cost (estimated via OpenRoads) and other factors. At a presentation to CFS faculty in late December, as well as Michael Evans of Bentley and Neil Camens of Chester Valley Engineers, Camens concluded that the students’ design was very similar to his own firm’s findings.

The semester closed out with the students spending three weeks designing and visualizing in 3D satellite orbits using AGI’s STK software, which is employed by engineers all over the world for modeling and simulation in the areas of space design, space operations, aircraft and UAV, missile systems and more. In addition to the educational licensing of STK software, AGI offers an afterschool internship to four CFS students where they are able to shadow employees from various departments and ultimately become STK certified.

The second semester of the Intro to Engineering course will be the Campus Model project. Students will perform aerial imaging of buildings on the CFS campus via a drone and use flight control software to plan an optimal flight path for the drone to image specific CFS buildings. The resulting images will then be processed on mini-desktop computers with Bentley Systems’ software to generate an integrated 3D model of each building. The models will be scaled to create a physical model of each building with the school’s existing 3D printers and software.

According to Mr. Andrews, “CFS students may not have a relationship with an adult that has a high paying technical or engineering career. They may not have an understanding of what an engineer does. The Introduction to Engineering course is another in a sequence of courses within the STEAM department that endeavors to fill this void.” He adds, “With the advantage of a technically rich high school experience, CFS graduates will be better prepared to successfully pursue an engineering degree in college.”
The Church Farm School is an independent boarding and day school for boys in grades 9-12 located in Exton, PA. Founded in 1918 to provide an excellent education to young men from limited means, Church Farm School continues to fulfill its mission of educational opportunity. The school offers a challenging college preparatory curriculum and an exceptional level of personal attention, with class sizes averaging between just 7 and 12 students.