GARY — If you stop by Jamie Wolverton’s introduction to engineering class at Roosevelt College and Career Academy, you might find students on the floor building a roller coaster, or at their desk calculating the materials, labor cost, profit and overhead for a bridge project.
The high school seniors are getting a taste of what it would take to be an engineer. The class gives high school seniors an opportunity to explore careers in engineering, and they earn a couple of credits because it’s a dual credit class through Ivy Tech Community College.
So far, students have built a bridge, a roller coaster and a speed ball machine.
As the teens move around the classroom separating into groups, Wolverton is talking above the chatter telling students to look at the items they will need for their projects. She also gives them a three-day deadline to finish them. The students use kits to put the projects together.
“You will be able to determine your labor costs by looking at the number of employees you will need, how much you will pay them per hour and how long it will take them to complete the project,” she tells students.
“Say, the worker makes $20 per hour and you need him to work eight hours a day, for a week. Figure out that cost, figure in your overhead cost for things like computers, a receptionist, office space, paper and pens. Figure the profit you want for your company, then decide how much you will bid for the project,” Wolverton said.
Wolverton said she wants students to learn the engineering design process, and each step it takes to complete a project.
“AutoCad has been installed on their computers, and they’ll be doing an online course to understand the process,” Wolverton said.
Senior Tarrence Montgomery, who works two part-time jobs, said his goal is to major in automotive engineering. He hasn’t made a decision on where he’s going to college but he believes the skills he’s learning in this introductory course will help him.
Senior Maliyah Norfleet said her goal is to become an engineer, and this class is giving her a feel for what it would be like to get into engineering. “I’m enjoying learning how to do the calculations to bid a job. Reading the blueprints is a little more challenging. It’s always good to have a plan B,” she said.
Despite so many positives at the school, Gary Roosevelt, which is operated by a private company, continues to struggle and face academic challenges. Roosevelt Principal Donna Henry said administrators work hard to empower its students.
“We’re in our fifth year of operation, and the parents are now familiar with us. They know we have the students’ best interest at heart,” she said.
In a report Henry made to the Indiana Department of Education last month, she said Roosevelt’s enrollment declined and is now at 606 students. It lost students to Gary New Tech, a high school operated by the Gary Community School Corp., and local charter schools.
However, Henry said the number fluctuates due to enrollments and transfers.
Although ISTEP-Plus test results have not yet been released publicly, Henry pointed out that students are showing growth.
Henry said Roosevelt has dramatically reduced its suspension and expulsion rate. In September 2015, a month after school started there were 83 suspensions. That’s compared to September 2016 when the number of suspensions was at 55.
Administrators said they’ve been able to create a healthy and safe school environment for teachers and students. She said the student attendance rate is currently above 90 percent.
Roosevelt also offers an alternative school and a credit recovery program. The alternative school is used in lieu of expulsion. Henry said if a student has an infraction that would cause them to be expelled, they are offered an opportunity to attend the alternative school, which is held during the school day.
“Those students come in an hour earlier and (are dismissed) an hour earlier,” Henry said. “The focus is to get them to correct their behavior. We’ve had some successes with students who have earned their way back into the traditional program.”