TOWN OF TONAWANDA — When Joel Harden talks about problem-solving with his students, he doesn’t mean worksheets.
He means robots.
About a week before classes start for the 2012-13 school year at Cardinal O’Hara High School, Harden stood in a classroom lined with computers, showing off a robotics kit that’s used in a series of challenges posed to his engineering students — a departure from the usual classroom routine.
“It’s not just ‘do this,’ “ he said. “It’s ‘solve the problem.’ “
This year will mark the official beginning of O’Hara’s Engineering Guides Greatness Academy, which sent six students in last year’s pilot program off to college in various related fields. Harden, a science teacher and academy director, said that program is meant to promote the science, technology, engineering and math fields and challenge students who want to enter those fields.
“We went to give them what they need for college, to go out of college into these fields ... and to be successful in college and beyond,” he said. “The opportunities for an individual going into these fields are strong. People are looking for jobs, and they need people to fill these jobs. And then there’s the bigger picture, with the advancements that come out of these fields.”
O’Hara Principal Mary Holzerland echoed his words, saying that the program could open many doors for its participants.
“The possibilities are great for them,” she said. “For those who have an interest in engineering ... this could take them to many places in college and beyond.”
Two new courses were introduced as part of the academy: advance placement physics and fundamentals of engineering. The engineering class, which is geared toward seniors, is less a traditional lecture class and more of a student-directed class, in which students can take on projects that challenge and interest them, Harden said.