Engineering Class Builds on Career Goals

Thrilled to see their bridge in action, juniors Ally Firmin, Bella Ockman and Elise Landrum cheer as their bridge supports more than 500 grams. In January, Mr. Kenneth Lannes assigned this civil engineering project where students constructed a bridge out of popsicle sticks. “Everyone doubted us, but the power of engineering was on our side,” said Landrum.

STREAMTM explores the relationship between faith and reason, continuing Dominican’s role in the formation of students as believing thinkers and thinking believers. The components of STREAMTM – science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math – are the foundations of what St. Mary’s Dominican High School offers to its students.

In 2018, Dominican High School launched a new course, Introduction to Engineering. Taught by Mr. Kenneth Lannes, an engineer and an adjunct professor at the University of New Orleans, the class offers the basics of engineering to juniors and seniors. “By introducing students to engineering at this level,” said Mr. Lannes, “they may decide to pursue engineering as a career.”

“If becoming an engineer is in their path, they’re ahead of the game” by taking this college-preparatory course, added Mr. Lannes.

The course introduces various types of engineering, including electrical, mechanical and civil engineering. Intro to Engineering incorporates God into the course because it correlates what early scientists studied with the advances science has made.

“If we look at STREAMTM as God as the center of math, engineering and science, this is how we would see the language of God,” said Mrs. Jennifer Drouant (‘93), academic assistant principal.

Dominican was excited to introduce the course because there is “a huge need for female voices in the engineering industry,” added Mrs. Drouant.

As a woman in this male-dominated field, chemical engineer Ms. Danica Nguyen (’06), currently working at ExxonMobil, said being a woman in a in engineering comes with obstacles. “The main challenge is overcoming gender bias,” said Ms. Nguyen.

Ms. Shannon Newkirk (’94), chemical engineer with Shell in Deer Park, Texas, agrees.  “There are times that when I feel I have to work slightly harder to prove myself,” said Ms. Newkirk. However, Ms. Newkirk adds that she has seen “a growth in the female population” in the industry these past years.

Intro to Engineering students were challenged with a project of their own this quarter. Applying a civil engineering lesson, students built bridges solely out of popsicle sticks.  Their bridges – consisting of no more than 50 sticks – had to be at least two feet long and support at least 500 grams. “Through this project, the course has taught me how engineering applies to daily life,” said junior Adele Hoth.

“Taking this class seemed like the perfect transition into college engineering courses,” said junior Hallie Matherne. “It’s important to me to have a strong foundation in engineering before the college classroom experience.”

As a Dominican alum and traffic engineer at Vectura, Ms. Bridget Robicheaux (’03) said that she would have loved learning more about engineering during high school. Becoming an engineer “took a lot of hard work and a lot of late-night studying,” said Ms. Robicheaux. “I encourage Dominican students to learn as much as they can from everyone around and to go where God leads them,” she added.

From experience, Ms. Nguyen has advice to the young women looking to enter in this field. “Don’t let these challenges discourage you from joining the field,” said Ms. Nguyen. “It is up to our future generation to enable capable women to also participate in the engineering field and share their knowledge and talent.”

  • Jade Nguyen