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Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Breaks Ground on Future

Elings Center for Engineering Education to open next July, giving budding engineers a spacious new home

Two hundred community members gathered at Dos Publos High School on Saturday afternoon for the groundbreaking of the Elings Center for Engineering Education.

After its expected completion in July 2011, students at the renowned Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy will be able to move from their cramped 900-square-foot shop into the $6 million, 12,000-square-foot building.

“The original problem was that the entire class was shoehorned into one room,” Santa Barbara School District Superintendent Brian Sarvis said. “That was three years ago and (the construction) happened because people stepped up to the plate.”

Engineering Academy director Amir Abo-Shaeer approached the school district in 2007 about applying for a $3 million state Department of Education grant — 30 days before the application deadline, Sarvis said.

Abo-Shaeer worked on the proposal for 12 hours a day for a month during the summer break, he said.

The DPEA was also required to match the state’s donation.

This was the catalyst for the creation of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation, said Lars Bildsten, a board member and physics professor at UCSB.

Virgil Elings, a colleague of Bildsten in the UCSB Department of Physics and founder of Digital Instruments, spoke and shoveled dirt at Saturday’s event.

Elings had a connection to Dos Pubelos as the chief donor for its Elings Aquatic Center before he donated $1 million to the DPEA, Bildsten said.

Sarvis and Abo-Shaeer talked about how the addition of a machine shop, prototype shop, computer lab, conference room and three classrooms would allow the academy to expand on the hands-on learning that academy students, known as D’Penguineers, are experiencing.

“We’ve been turning away lots of people,” Abo-Shaeer said. “Every year it’s heart breaking. Hopefully (the center) is going to transform the entire process.”

Elings praised the academy’s approach to helping students understand themselves instead of solely memorizing facts.

“I call it brain-on learning,” Elings said. “The only thing I call hands-on is piano and surgery.”

Nicole Schauser, who graduated in June, won’t get to use the new building but she says the process of making presentations to more than 50 potential donors helped her grow and learn.

“Even though I don’t get to experience the building myself I’ll get to see other teams use it,” said Schauser, who will be a freshman at UC Berkeley in the fall.

The DPEA gives students experience in mechanical, electrical and program engineering by building, for example, simple robots made of Legos and testing underwater vehicles in the school pool, Abo-Shaeer said.

Schauser and her classmates were also able to directly benefit from the future by doing grant writing, public relations and donor presentations, she said.

Kristi Holm, mother of academy junior Haley Holm, believes that beyond Abo-Shaeer’s “contagious” excitement about learning, the academy’s connection with local companies like Raytheon helps prepare and network students with potential employers.

“It’s good for a resume,” Holm said. “(Companies) know that if they went through the academy they know they kids have hands on experience.”

On Saturday, Sandy Seale, president of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation, announced the start of the Gearing Up! Capital Campaign that is seeking to raise $655,000 for computers, furniture and machinery for the center. Click here to make a donation or for more information.

Noozhawk intern Daniel Langhorne will be a junior at Chapman University in the fall. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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