(gentle music) In 2002, Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, California, introduced DPEA, Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. The mission was to provide 21st century skills by a project-based learning in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics to its student body. The program was fully implemented by 2005 along with the senior level robotics program.
The Engineering Academy is very different compared to other classes in your normal high school. We spend one whole school year developing towards one project which is great compared to other classes where it's just tests that you take every couple weeks and you kind of forget what you've learned after that and this, you have to continue to keep learning towards one final project. The way we learn is in a rotation system so we're spending 10 days in either physics, art and design, machining, or computer programming.
You're not just learning physics to do equations. You're learning physics to apply it to the design you created yourself or you're programming something that you actually had the idea for. You're machining something for your own project. For me, it's a lot better way to learn more because you're not working on some ambiguous concept that you're never actually gonna see come into fruition. Students are able to do things that people would never believe were possible in a high school setting. Our students compete in this robotics competition.
Every year they create a different sport that these robots play against each other and with each other, it's very collaborative. The basketballs go up through the elevator and into our hooded shooter. The hood actuates so that it can be shot from different angles into the hoop and then on our shooter here we have a camera that has vision tracking senses so that we can track where the hoop is. This robotics competition is held by a national nonprofit called FIRST and it was founded by inventor, Dean Kamen.
He saw that our culture was celebrating entertainers and sports figures, but that they weren't celebrating, you know, scientists and engineers who were really the backbone of the technology that really all of us use and love. The Academy is well recognized and large now, but in the early days it was very small, a couple of classrooms on the main campus with many obstacles along the way, issues like making sure that the curriculum is aligned to state standards, you have facility issues, you have equipment issues, and then you just have general skepticism among people who are used to doing things in a more traditional way.
But when you listen to the kids and you see the result, you can see it's really worth the journey. The Engineering Academy really gave me the opportunity to cement my passion for science and engineering. Doing robotics is what convinced me to study mechanical engineering in college and really what convinced me that it was what I wanted to do with my life. Robotics for me is kind of the one thing I really look at in my life where I never lost focus on it and the work ethic that's necessary to really achieve success and to see something completed.
This is something that you really have to work on together and you really have to be ready to rethink your design and constantly improve upon it. One of the most profound things that I found when I started doing project-based learning where the kids were really involved in the project and the goal was to complete a project was the kids did not realize they were actually at school anymore. They stopped focusing on, "I'm at school "in an institution with bells governing the schedule," and we were actually working beyond the bells, not motivated by a grade or by a transcript.
They were really motivated, in this case, "I wanna make this thing good." By the end of the day when most people work, they create a product and I don't really care what industry it is, they're creating something that people are going to engage with. Given that that's what ultimately people are gonna be doing, I think it's critical that when people go through their high school experience that they do have the opportunity to draw from all of these different experiences and say, "Hey, everything that I learned "along the way really made sense and it all fits "and culminates in this thing that I've created." The reason the Academy has gone from where it started to where it is now is because of just the hard work of people who just believe in making education for our students more relevant and thus more engaging.
We treat our students as really they're the - they're kind of the client in this whole Engineering Academy. If we're not doing something that they're, you know, not interested in, why are we doing it? Education is an overconstrained problem right now and it's causing a situation where teachers are not feeling free to really try stuff and I don't think that's why teachers got into teaching. I think they wanted to be creative and work in this very kind of special environment with kids. The teachers in this program, we all kind of have that multidisciplinary background which is another advantage.
For example, we're doing a light sculpture with the sophomores this year. The concept of the rod art, and the lights, and the idea of the layout I kind of came up with, but I didn't know how to make the lights work because I'm not an engineer. So when we all got into our group and started discussing it, our machinist was like, "Hey, we can make this work this way," and our physics teacher was saying, "Now we can teach them circuitry and electricity." The CAD teacher was coming in and saying, "Hey, this is amazing, now we can program this." So by all of us having something different to offer, this became this fantastic piece of art that required all these disciplines for the kids to achieve.
Allowing for that creativity and freedom of thought at such an earlier stage in someone's life is really what makes this a special environment. Now that being said, this would not have happened without a number of parents getting very engaged putting time in and nonprofit foundations putting resources in, and a district that allowed it to happen. Those conditions aren't everywhere and we have, you know, done our best to try to convince people to do this, but it's a bigger challenge to explain to someone because this took 10 years to get to what you see today.
In terms of what's happening here in Santa Barbara County, there is indeed a ripple effect. Others come and see, both from within the district and outside the district, what's happening and you're seeing spread of the concept of project-based learning by doing. We are showing what's possible. We have teachers from around the country, our own teachers in our community saying, "How can we do this?" because they're seeing the impact that's happening. And so the third phase of this is just characterized by the freedom to benevolently create really a wonderful educational experience where everybody's goal is to create the best educational experience for students and that's our focus.
When you're done watching the documentary, make sure to check out the bonus conversations in the Interviews chapter.