New Freshmen Course Expands Academy of Engineering


Carter Bussi, Contributor

New this year at San Rafael High School are some big changes to the Academy of Engineering and Technology (AET). Along with the new state-of-the-art STEAM building, a brand new set of AET classes is being offered to freshmen for the first time ever. Together, the building and new classes are designed to grow the AET program by introducing students to the concepts and equipment of the program.    

The set of new freshman classes takes the AET program from a 2 year to a 3 year program.  Physics of the Universe AET takes the place of the existing freshman science course, Physics of the Universe. Taken in tandem with Intro to Engineering Design & Technology, the pairing of classes mirrors how AET classes are taken together in Junior and Senior year. 

The growing size of the program looks promising for the future of the academy. “For many years, we have struggled with recruiting students,” remarked AET teacher Mr. McSorley. “This will introduce students at a younger age to our program, and hopefully increase enrollment.” 

AET veteran teacher, Mr. Temple originally saw a potential for a freshman AET course four years ago. Back then,San Rafael High adopted the Physics First program because of the next generation science standard the state was introducing. So instead of taking a biology class, incoming freshmen would be taking a physics class. 

“I saw an opportunity for us to bring in an engineering program for the freshmen because they were already taking physics as a required freshman class,” stated Temple. 

The class remained a concept for a few years until AET teacher, Ms. Paiz, created a curriculum for the class during the 2021-22 school year. “I spent all last year designing the PhuN Engineering Curriculum,” stated Paiz. She joined the AET program the same year she helped create the Physics of the Universe course.

Much like the later years of the AET program, the new freshman course is split between two class periods: physics and engineering. The physics portion is a modified version of the Physics of the Universe class which expands on more concepts that are then demonstrated and reinforced in the Engineering class. Students are able to apply the physics that they are learning from Physics of the Universe AET to the models they are engineering in Intro to Engineering Design & Technology. Currently Paiz is teaching the physics portion while Mr. McSoley is teaching the engineering side. 

The new pair of classes is allowing the AET program to be more accessible to more students because it is introducing the idea of engineering much sooner to students. Early exposure also means two later classes in the program, mechanical and electrical engineering, can now be taken interchangeably, a change predicated by the introduction of the new freshmen AET courses. This makes the later classes much easier for students to transfer into. The program is evolving to be less of a linear path, rather one where people are able to take the classes they are interested in as their schedule allows. 

The program expansion allows for AP Physics to now be taken either Junior or Senior year. There is now an opportunity for students to be exposed to physics earlier, allowing harder classes to be available in the later years. “We’re hoping the students will already have engineering experience [when they take AP Physics],” said Paiz. “[That] will just make them stronger for the later two classes.”  

Freshmen are enjoying the mix of engineering and applied physics. Clive Baker, a freshman enrolled in AET, said, “I think that they do a good job in Engineering, letting you be in charge of what you’re doing.”

San Rafael High School science faculty are hoping the new freshman courses and re-sequencing of existing upper class courses will inspire students to join the AET program.  With the expansion of AET, it looks promising for the future of the program, as an enthusiastic freshmen class are just getting started.