Turn on the news and it is clear the pace of technology is on the rise. As such, the need for workers who can both maintain and advance technology continues to expand. Recognizing this ever-growing demand, Wasatch Academy is responding through an expansion of its technology and engineering program.
Wasatch Academy began its search for a candidate to head up the progressive advancement of the technology and engineering program in the fall of 2018 just as construction began on the new Engineering and Technology facility. Designed to be the program hub of creativity and innovation, the new facility has collaboration baked into every aspect of its design.
When Dr. Zeb Engberg, current Wasatch Academy Math Department Co-Chair, learned of the opportunity to become the director of the program, he knew he wanted to be involved. “As an educator, I am constantly scanning the world around me for authentic and meaningful problems and projects through which I can engage and empower my students. In engineering, these problems come organically,” said Engberg.
A graduate from Dartmouth in 2014, Engberg believed that he could leave a more meaningful impact by working closely with students. After completing his Ph.D. in number theory, Engberg turned down offers to enter the world of research and joined the faculty at Wasatch Academy. While his deep passion for beautiful abstract mathematics fueled his graduate research, his experience with young idealistic students has brought him back to the motto of his undergraduate institution: To Know Is Not Enough. Engberg states, “I seek to apply my thinking in increasingly interdisciplinary forms. I hope to actualize sustainable positive change within our school and the local community. I choose to challenge the next generation of problem solvers to enact their own solutions to the world’s problems.”
In his current role, Engberg works alongside co-chair Emma Chiappetta to morph the traditional paradigm of mathematics education at Wasatch Academy. The Mathematics Department has pushed against the conventional narrative by emphasizing discovery, individualized learning, project-based learning, and deep authentic problem-solving. Engberg plans to bring his enthusiasm for discovery to his new role as the Director of Technology and Engineering. “While I will always love mathematics, I am excited to bring my passion for creation and problem-solving into a new realm. In high school mathematics, the authentic opportunity to construct new ideas can feel contrived and counterproductive. In engineering, the act of construction happens on the first day.”
Engberg plans to work closely with Kurt Quakenbush, Technology Department Head and 3D Animation Instructor, to support the thriving technology program that currently operates in the Center for Evolving Technologies (CET). His focus will primarily be on developing the engineering branch and uniting existing program to create fluid cross-collaboration platforms between various departments. “I have seen the power of design thinking awaken previously disinterested students. I hope to expose more students to the engineering design process through our engineering, robotics, and rocketry classes and through our inviting and experimental maker space.”
Seeing an enormous opportunity for collaboration potential, Engberg is already excited about opportunities to work with the Studio Arts Department and the Sustainability Council to create solutions for existing campus obstacles. He envisions the ability to simulate the effects of shifting Wasatch Academy to a single-meter electrical system and analyzing the impacts of installing a solar array on campus. He also hopes to tap into more traditional means of creativity by programming a computer to compose music through a random process. These are just a few of his ideas.
“The act of building can strike a chord deep within students who feel unmotivated or unchallenged in core academic disciplines. I’m excited to be working with students in new and creative ways. I’m excited to share my passion with students and to challenge them in a different context,” said Engberg.
Under his direction, students can plan on registering for courses in technology, digital audio, Adobe Photoshop / Flash, digital video, 3D animation, Adobe Illustrator / After Effects, 3D design/video game design, yearbook, industrial fabrication, robotics, rocketry, and various levels of computer science. Self-motivated students will be given the autonomy to take their ideas and run with them. Students who require significant structure and scaffolding will be mentored as they seek authentic learning experiences and build the confidence to dream bigger.
Although Engberg does not officially step into his new role until August of 2019, he is already working hard to prep the new facility for classes beginning in September of 2019. Rather than using a traditional classroom model, the engineering center is a large industrial workspace. The layout is modular and open by design. The new engineering center includes a state-of-the-art woodworking shop and maker space. Specific high-tech equipment including a laser cutter, a 3D printer, and a welder will also be available. Engberg eagerly adds, “These sophisticated machines will be used to bring intricate student designs to fruition. Such machinery inspires and empowers students to tinker and create. A 3D printer completely transforms the traditional act of making by allowing for a level of detail and precision previously inaccessible. The fact that prototypes can readily be designed and produced will open the doors for student creativity and innovation.”
“I want students to feel empowered through their experience designing, prototyping, and building. In addition to our CET, Studio Arts Center, and Music Conservatory, our engineering center will provide another creative outlet for our students. We hope that our engineering center continues to lower the traditional walls between distinct disciplines and allow for vibrant and authentic student-driven pursuits.”