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Richland Collegiate High School Paves the Way for Future S.T.E.M. Graduates with New Engineering Pathway


Eleven high school juniors from Richland Collegiate High School (RCHS) recently completed the first course in a new engineering pathway, paving the way not only for the students to get a head start on college-level courses while still in high school, but also for the students to become immediately employable, with some students even achieving a level-one manufacturing certification.

The first class in this new pathway was Drafting 1309, an intensive 13-day class taught by Mohammad-Ali Manouchehripour, Ph.D. In addition to basic drafting, students learned computer-aided design (CAD), a basic foundation of engineering, with the software AutoCAD. In this class, students learned how to draw an object and create a blueprint, and later they will actually be able to manufactur those objects.

“I think AutoCAD is a good software to learn in general because it has such a wide range of uses,” said Mitchell Zadnik, one of the RCHS students enrolled in Drafting 1309. “Our instructor told us some people take the class to make jewelry, some people take it for engineering and some people take it for the general knowledge of it.”

Students in the engineering pathway have access to Richland College’s Technology, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (TEAM) Center, a multi-million dollar learning space with leading edge, industry-quality technology that allows engineering and manufacturing students to have contemporary, hands-on learning experiences and career-focused training.

“Our students are going to be designing, developing and manufacturing their own parts and then assembling them into their own robotic assessments at the end of the program,” said Craig Hinkle, RCHS principal. “It is a very unique opportunity in public education for 16-year-old high school students to have access to multi-million dollar labs and manufacturing processes. When they leave here, they’ll be employable in the industry before they’ve even received their college degrees.”

“All of the software students learn in this class and this program can be added to their portfolios,” said Manouchehripour. “When they go to job interviews in two years, they will have experience with the software currently being used in the industry. Here at Richland College, everyone is a team. Our main agenda is to make sure we educate students, and to be a supplier to the demands of the local industries.”

When filling the inaugural drafting class, RCHS looked for students who were interested in math, science and engineering; students who may have already been in robotics clubs at their previous high schools; and students who had previously taken advanced math courses. For the duration of their time at RCHS, the students will work closely with RCHS senior academic advisors to develop a continued pathway based on their future educational and career goals.

Most of the 11 students in the inaugural class have dreams to go into various engineering fields, including but not limited to aerospace, biotechnical, software, manufacturing and mechanical. Other career aspirations include architecture, mathematics, marine biology and security.

In a pathway traditionally dominated by men, administrators were also pleased when the inaugural class had more female students than male students.

“More than 50 percent of the students are female, and we are really excited about that,” said Hinkle. “There has been a trend that math and science fields are dominated by males, and we as an American society have been trying to change that. Right now, we actually have about a 60/40 female-to-male ratio, of which we are proud. We hope that will be an inspiration to other female students in the future.”

Johannah Belk, one female RCHS student, joined this program because it offered more opportunities in engineering than her previous high school did.

“I’ve explored many different fields of engineering, but doing AutoCAD all day, every day in this course made me realize it’s what I want to do every day for the rest of my life, which is pretty exciting,” said Belk. “I’m hoping to design locks and go into security. I think the mechanisms inside locks can be advanced with growing technology, and I want to be a part of that.”

Another female RCHS student, Alaina Crowder, joined the program so she could gain college experience in high school before transferring to a four-year university.

“My dream job is to be a manufacturing engineer,” said Crowder. “After taking this class and being shown around a manufacturing lab, I became super interested in that field. I hope I’ll be able to work in a lab like this one someday.”

Richland Collegiate High School is a school designed to provide a rigorous academic experience for high school juniors and seniors. Students complete their last two years of high school at Richland College by taking college courses and earning college credits. These students can potentially graduate with both their high school diploma and an associate degree, prepared to transfer to a four-year university. Tuition and books are free, making RCHS an educational and affordable choice.

For more information about Richland Collegiate High School, visit alt.richlandcollege.edu/rchs.