Engineering In Action


Whitfield’s Principles of Engineering is an interdisciplinary, immersive course in which students explore topics in robotics, computer science, and environmental science. Through project-based learning, students engage in building and refining prototypes, scientific literacy and experimental design. Like all classes at Whitfield, the course cultivates several spiraling skills as well, including writing, research and presentation skills and collaboration. When faculty members like Dr. Heather Lavezzi connect curricular concepts to real-world scenarios, it increases a course’s relevance and student engagement. 

To develop the above skills, Dr. Lavezzi employed a Stunt Design project.  Students played the role of practical effects engineers who are working on a large stunt design for a new movie. Their task was to design a car chase scene that included a crash, create a scale model to test their stunt’s design, and film their model in action. They were also required to design a new safety device to prevent the crash from causing damage to the car or stunt driver.

For the final component of the project, each student will make a formal presentation to the movie ‘director,’ played by Dr. Lavezzi, show their films and explain their calculations. 

To begin, students drew a prototype of their design and submitted their plan to Dr. Lavezzi for feedback. The project required that the car chase and crash scene must be realistic, the people involved must remain safe, and the stunt must be replicable to allow tests to be filmed multiple times. Building materials included toy race cars, track, marbles, and similar supplies.

During their design tests, students measured velocity, acceleration, and impact force and utilized their calculations to revise and improve their model designed. For their final presentations, students will show their films and explain their calculations.