A new club was added this fall at Laguna Blanca’s Upper School when math teacher Paul Chiment introduced the Engineering Club, a club designed to leave a positive impact on the lives of real people in the Santa Barbara community.

Their first project was to create an “assistive technology device” to help someone living with a disability.

After brainstorming with a gentleman with cerebral palsy, the team decided to create a handrail extension to help him ascend and descend stairs. There is no such product on the market, making it clear that it would be a worthwhile challenge.

The students designed and tested their prototype and submitted it for the National Engineering Design Challenge. On Wednesday, the club received news that it was selected as one of 25 semi-finalists.

The group now will create and submit a demonstrative video of their device (the Extend-O-Rail). The top five scoring teams will move on to the national finals competition in Washington, D.C., where they will present the device before a panel of judges and a live audience.

Win or lose, Laguna’s new Engineering Club is proving to be a rewarding experience for all involved.

— Tara Broucqsault is the director of communications for Laguna Blanca School.