Five-hundred yards south of Bakersfield College’s Math and Science Building lies one of the city’s great landmarks, the site of a half-century of drama, heroics and glory.
Rushil Desai could see BC’s Memorial Stadium from the second-floor breezeway running along the building’s backside.
But there, just inside the door of Forum 102, he was pursuing glory of a different sort — designing equipment that a Renegade linebacker, for example, might one day want to wear.
This was the sixth annual Engineering Design Challenge, staged by Project Lead the Way, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing young engineers, technologists and biomedical professionals.
Desai, a Centennial High School freshman, and frosh teammates Allie Staricka and Samantha Archaletta, were among about 50 teens competing for three team slots in the state PLTW finals in May. Their assignment: Design, develop and present a set of wireless headphones geared to a specific consumer market segment.
They could be for children or the elderly, jet pilots or scuba divers.
“They pick their target market,” said BC industrial drawing instructor Darren Willis, “as long as they’re some kind of headphones.”
Desai’s team chose a very specific market for their headphones: athletes who wear glasses.
“Athletes who run, mainly,” he said, taking a break from his computer monitor.
“Any kind of running. For music or whatever. Ours are going to look like earphones that curve up around your ear and have a hook for glasses.”
Four-eyed runners, say, wearing football helmets and listening for instructions from the sidelines?
“Anything like that,” Desai said.
Eighteen local high schools sent teams to the event, and some, like Centennial, had multiple teams.
Bruce Westermo, a retired San Diego State University engineering professor, started PLTW-California 15 years ago.
“Statistics show how Project Lead the Way pays off,” he said. “Students in the program are seven times more likely to go into a STEM career. Students overall are 55 percent likely to go through everything and get a (STEM) degree, but students who’ve been in Project Lead the Way graduate” with a STEM-related degree.
Centennial engineering teacher Pierre Peasha brought six kids, two teams of three, and one advanced: Desai’s team. They squeezed in in the third spot, winning the trip to San Diego and the $800 stipend awarded to each of the top three finishers.
Harmony Magnet Academy of Strathmore (Carlos Sartiaguin, Nikolas Murgia and Jared Padilla) was first and Frontier (Katelyn Zulfa, Merari Mejia and Michael Ross) was third.
Mission Oaks of Tulare was fourth and Shafter was fifth.
Chevron sponsored the daylong event.