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Engineering Academy student gives back

Dr. Michael Voicheck, NPHS Technology & Engineering Education Department Teacher

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It’s 7:30am on a Saturday morning and she’s anxiously waiting outside of Pennbrook Middle School for the Discover the Future conference to start. After an hour of setup and a little nervous snacking, the first group of 15 aspiring female students funnel into a classroom where this supercharged senior is ready to entertain. The presentation is about Energy, and Victoria Christensen is definitely full of that. With just three months of high school left, she’s spending her first Saturday in spring encouraging kids to participate in science and understand how much fun science can be.

Her session, focused on Energy, involves five energy exploring stations. Each station has a hands-on component where students discover different ways of harvesting energy from their surroundings.  A popular station included peltier, pronounced “pell-tee-ay,” tiles that converts energy from heat and turns it into electricity.  Students used multimeters to measure the energy in a measurable form of voltage, the force-like quantity in electrical systems. With this voltage, Victoria encouraged her participants to think of ways that they could use these technologies to harvest energy from their lives.

Talking to students about where to use the piezo-electric tabs, Victoria said, “if you put this on the floors…we could light the hallways, and it would be awesome.” Shuffling from group to group she stopped at the solar cell station, asking the students which angles provided the best numbers. A group of boys were so excited to get the highest numbers that they were standing on a workbench, reaching for the brightest light they could find. Thirty minutes later and another group was working on the same solar cell station. Victoria was overheard talking to them and saying “I know it’s kind of nerdy and sciencey, but I like that stuff.”

Victoria’s list of accolades extends far beyond a high school volunteer on a Saturday. She’s president of the National Honor Society, Vice President of the Engineering Projects In Community Service club, and more.  Post high school, Victoria plans on obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Materials Science. In the summer she works as a Lego Robotics instructor for a camp held at the high school. Finally, by the end of this year, Victoria will have completed all five of North Penn’s Engineering Academy courses. She’ll tell you to take all or any of them if you can fit them in your schedule.

In her Engineering Design and Development (EDD) course, run by a very enthusiastic Mr. Michael Boyer, Victoria is researching concussions. Her team developed an apparatus that allows G-Force testing of helmets. Using some advanced programming, a microcontroller, and an accelerometer, the device graphs these results on the computer and allows real-time monitoring to protect athletes from traumatic brain injuries.  The group wishes to eventually embed a miniaturized version of the circuit into a helmet, wirelessly transmitting the data back to the sidelines. Details of her device are meticulously outlined in her prized engineering notebook.

At 2:35pm when the last group of energetic kids left, Victoria was exhausted, but also still excited and enthusiastic. She has no plans to get into teaching, but she was glad to share a day with people who had similar interests. She hopes the kids left with a new sense of discovery, “seeing things in a different way.”

Discover the Future is a Science and Math Extravaganza for students in Grades 5 to 7 which showcases women in Science and Math professions. The annual conference was hosted by the local chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Mrs. Diane Wakefield, NPHS Physics Teacher was there to help answer questions and assist Victoria.

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Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA
Engineering Academy student gives back