Tag Archives: engineering

Advanced Mack STEM Students Make Their Own “Whips” at the Crucible


Edward Ainsworth, a junior,  works with Kathryn Hall to sand old paint off his bicycle

Story and photo by Anthony Beron

McClymonds engineering students welded, grinded, sanded, assembled, improvised and painted. Then they learned a lesson about the weather: as paint was sprayed on their home-made bikes at the Crucible in West Oakland, they realized that the cold weather can’t be tamed as easily as steel can be bent into shape.

The paint cracked, creating an unusually  jagged pattern. David Wright, one of the Crucible’s volunteers, complimented the design, calling it “crackin.”

“It looks really cool,” acquiesced engineering teacher Kathryn Hall, who had arranged for the Crucible staff to help her advanced engineering students build bicycles from scratch.

They met five times over the semester.

Students learned how to weld, paint and grind metal during the workshop in a hands-on manner during the five day-long course that was held over a period of five weeks, describing it as fun and challenging. Several students were able to present their own creations last weekend, earning an increased letter grade in extra credit for their engineering class.

They reused old bicycle parts, which ranged from cracked tubes to handlebars to rusted gears and drive-trains. They were then repaired and reassembled into ride-able recycled art, with nuances of accumulated pitch and worn paint.

Despite the alleged hands-on aspect of the course, several instructors complained of students not doing enough of their own work on their projects.

“Come on guys, you can’t have us do all this work that’s supposed to be done by you!” said a disgruntled Sudhu Tewari to Justin Gilreath and Issac Ramirez, a Mack senior and junior, respectively, for not completing an important weld.

When Mack engineering teacher Hall tried to take a ride with another student in the Gilreath-Ramirez designed cart connected to a bicycle, a weld failed when the joint that connected both pieces snapped. The bike, a tandem wheeler cart attached to a repainted and donated mountain bicycle, collapsed.

Engineers with Swagg: the New Mack Look


by Kardel Howard

McClymonds has a new class — engineering.  That means new toys, new tools, and new equipment that students can play with in their newly renovated $60,000 classroom, according to Lynn Baliff, educational consultant.

The new improvements start with the backpacks that were distributed to the Principles of Engineering class. The backpack doubles as a solar-powered cell-phone charger.  Its solar panel is sewn into the front of the backpack, and when placed under sunlight, absorbs the energy and transfers that to its solar-charged battery.  A USB cord plugs into the charged battery while the other side plugs into the phone; then it charges.

Other equipment includes a “master computer” that allows the teacher to monitor all the computer activity in the classroom.


The engineering class also has a 3D printers that turns  models that are made on the computer to become a physical form. The 3D printer creates the model onto the platform by melting plastic filaments into a shape, and keeps tracing the model until it is no longer amorphous.


“The class is advancing,” said Katherine Hall, engineering and math teacher.  In addition to the introductory course, Hall also added an advanced engineering course, Principles of Engineering.

“Next year,” she added, “there will be a third course for seniors.”

The engineering course counts as an elective and has a curriculum that encourages students to use their creativity and think more critically in using their mathematical abilities to solve equations.

There are 20 students total enrolled in the Intro to Engineering class and 15 in the Principles of Engineering class.  Students like Kelton Runnels, a junior, enjoy the new STEM curriculum. ” I believe this engineering class is now opening a lot more doors for us than sports,” says Runnels.

As he sees it, McClymonds is turning over a new leaf.

The New New Thing at Mack : Manufacturing and Engineering

photo by Pamela Tapia

by Pamela Tapia

School board Gary Yee brought along Dan Swinney of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council to pitch a new program to the staff, parents and faculty at McClymonds Wednesday night. However, Yee didn’t stay long at the meeting.

The change in focus at Mack — from law and environmental justice to manufacturing and engineering — was unveiled at a series of meetings, first with principal Kevin Taylor and then with the school’s alumni association.

“We could’ve prevented jobs lost in companies,” said Swinney as he introduced the program created at Austin Polytechnical Academy in West Chicago to the 25 people at the meeting.

The Austin Polytechnical Academy opened in 2007. A New York Times story in April reported that the school is facing funding problems, a decline in enrollment, and was placed in academic probation for the 2010-2011 school year.

In the latest news, on Monday, 100 students walked out of classes at Austin Polytechnic Academy to protest the firing of 7 out of 30 teachers by the interim principal. Students and teachers complained of poor communications and lack of professional development in a piece by the Chicago News Cooperative.

In an attempt to show that manufacturing jobs could be saved in West Oakland, Swinney said that there were jobs that could be filled if the people with the “right talent” applied. According to Swinney, even during the recession there were 3 million jobs in manufacturing.

“Whenever they think of jobs. they think of McDonalds, Wal-Mart, or selling drugs, they don’t think of manufacturing,” said Swinney.

According to Swinney, McClymonds was chosen because of the similarity to West Chicago’s demographics, namely high unemployment, a rise in African American population, and poor funding of public education.

There was many comments from parents after hearing that it took $75,000-100,000 to start the program from scratch and it cost $250,000 a year to maintain the machinery and hire specialized teachers.

“We don’t want to be a district dumping ground,” said Carol Ferguson-Jones, Mack class of ’88 and parent of a student.

“I’m not really excited if you don’t focus on academics,” said Rowanda McGee, a social worker at McClymonds.

“This whole idea is stupid. We need to divert the funds for something that will benefit everybody, not just the people interested in manufacturing. Our class can’t even do algebra, how are they going to do calculus to run a machine?” said Bonita Tindle, a senior at Mack.

Despite some negative reaction from parents, staffband students, the McClymonds administration welcomed the new focus.

“ Kids need another alternative. They need to find a career path with a skill set,” said council member Nancy Nadel. “College is not for everybody. The district needs to support us,” said Sam McNeal, attendance administrator.

“We need a safety net, nothing happens overnight,” said Karen Todd, vice principal at Mack.

There is no word when the final decision will be made.