Architecture Competition 2020

(The following post, written by Anna Beebe, was intended to be published in March—and then COVID-19 happened! Forgive our tardiness… the Architecture Competition was one of the very last things the Providence Engineering Academy did in person this year and it was highly worthwhile!)

The students get ready for the day’s instructions

On Tuesday, March 10th, fourteen Providence Engineering students—our largest group to date—attended a county-wide High School Design Competition hosted by the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara. Our students joined approximately 30 other students at 8am at Direct Relief’s global headquarters in Santa Barbara while a parallel section of the competition was offered at the same time at a location in the Santa Ynez valley.

This competition has been held annually for the past 30 years, and Providence students have won awards in the competition in both 2018 and 2019.

Teacher Matt Eves prepared our students incredibly well. For the last three months, class time has been devoted to architectural study. Students have been learning how to use architectural drawing boards with t-squares and triangles, as well as how to draw to scale. Both of these skills were utilized in the competition, as students were engaged in designing floor plans, site plans, and elevation drawings.

On site, students were given a design challenge immediately upon entering the room. Historically, the Architectural Foundation has attempted to choose challenges that connect directly to current architectural challenges in Santa Barbara.

This year, the challenge was to design a “tiny house”—a fully-functional home that is typically less than 600 square feet, with some as small as 65 square feet. You may be familiar with the “tiny homes” that back up to the US101 North near the Salinas exit, one of several tiny-house projects in Santa Barbara born of a recent ordinance authorizing their construction in order to make use of unconventional plots of land.

Students were given a site plan that showed streets and a plot layout and were instructed to design a tiny house on it, and draw-to-scale some details including elevation and floor plan. While the students worked, professional architects circled the room acting as mentors and offering design advice.

Sophomore Kaitlyn Tang said of the competition, “There’s something about designing that is special. Although tasked to build a tiny house, there really was no ceiling to what we could do. It was so amazing to be able to design something from scratch with endless possibilities. I had such a fun experience and time flew by, but I think in the end, we all designed something that we were really proud of.”

Dozens of high schools from around Santa Barbara County
were represented at the design competition
Junior Joshua Frankenfield returned to the competition for his third year, having won past awards. He says of his experience, “I must say that the architecture competition is one of the highlights of the school year for me. The way it is set up gives the students leeway to solve the problem however they wish in the time period given, so long as it operates within the restraints. It is a true engineering experience within the realm of architecture.”

We are incredibly proud of the hard work and creativity our Providence students demonstrated, and are so grateful for the opportunity they had to connect with architects in the city. For those who are interested in studying architecture, this experience will be a wonderful spring-board for their professional future! As sophomore James Loewen put it, “It has been a very fun experience regardless of winning or not!”

Summer Camp 2019

This summer, the Providence Engineering Academy once again hosted the very special Robot City summer camp. With assistance from four capable high school engineering students (Alena, Davis, Pedro, and Zach), Mr. Eves and Mr. Meadth put on an unforgettable experience!

(Please note that all photos in this article have been selected to avoid showing camper faces, since not all students are from Providence with a photo release. Apologies if you’re looking for your loved one’s smiling face!)

Day 1: Architecture
After breaking into four teams, each group selected the theme for their quadrant of Robot City. The Green Team chose Time Travel, the Blue Team settled on a Medieval Castle, the Yellow Team laid out an Alien Attack on the Beach, and Red Team was Future City. A quick lesson of folding geometric nets, and all campers from 3rd to 7th Grade were ready to build!

The skyline emerges! A colorful mess of card and tape!

Red Team’s skyscraper went up and up and up, and needed to be
tied down with guy ropes!
Blue Team’s “Nice No-Trap Castle”. Should we believe them?

With inspiring challenges like “Tallest Tower” and “Most Colorful”, each team worked hard to lay out their cities. Skyscrapers rose up six feet into the air, zip lines were strung out, and spaces carefully divided out.

Day 2: CAD and 3D Printing
It might sound complex, but physically printing CAD (computer-aided design) models is something within the reach of any elementary student! Mr. Meadth taught the campers how to use Tinkercad, a free in-browser design tool created by AutoDesk. Designers can use simple shapes such as cylinders, cones, spheres, and prisms to create more complex models, such as houses and rocketships and characters.

Two of our campers work on their CAD models (Owen’s model
on the right is shown in detail below)

This is a great tool to get kids thinking in terms of linear dimensions, negative and positive space, perspective, volume, and it’s just plain creative fun! Here are a couple of examples of what the kids came up with. We also had spaceships, tanks, flying cars, and castles. Wow!

Once created (the models above took the students less than an hour to build), the designs were sent to the 3D printer. At a small enough print size, most models were done in about an hour, in a range of colors. Of course, after the camp the students got to keep whatever they have printed!

It’s just as addictive as watching TV, but at the end of the program
there’s actually something to show for. Thanks, Raise3D!

Day 3: Electrification
Always a favorite! Mr. Meadth gave a quick lesson on simple circuits, explaining terms such as “LED”, “voltage”, “series”, and “parallel”. Each team was given a supply of copper tape, coin batteries, and LEDs, and shown how to connect them together to power their city. It wasn’t long before the entire room was lit up with red, blue, orange, white, and green!

A lovely beach paradise in the shadow of the skyscrapers
(the tidal wave was added later)

The Green Team’s time travel zone included some helpful signs
(because time travel can be confusing)

A scale replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, courtesy of Abigail

All teams took up the extra challenges as well, building working paper switches, including both series and parallel circuits, and working to match their lighting arrangements to their theme. Blue Team created “laser traps” for their medieval castle, and Green Team strung out a long neatly-lit road to mark out their different time travel zones. Billboard were illuminated and “stained-glass” windows lit from the inside.

Mr. Eves works on the Blue Team’s medieval quadrant
LEDs don’t come through well in photos, but you get the idea!

When parents arrived for pickup on Wednesday, the lights went out, and the party started!

Day 4: LEGO Robotics
What’s a Robot City without robots? This year, Mr. Meadth and Mr. Eves guided the campers on how to incorporate LEGO Mindstorms robotics sets. Rather than creating robotic systems that would move around (and potentially destroy delicate buildings and circuits!), the teams focused on stationary mechanical systems. Mr. Meadth gave some lessons on essential mechanical systems (bevelled gears, gear reductions, universal joints, cams and cranks, etc.), issued some fun challenges, and away they all went!

Does this look like anybody’s bedroom floor? Times it by 16.

A futuristic monorail glides around Green Team’s city buildings

What’s a medieval world without an authentic, functional windmill?

We were blown away by all of the amazing creations that campers and their team leaders built: several working elevators (with tracks and with pulleys/windlasses); a slowly rotating time travel portal (sadly not actually functional); a crank-powered shooting spaceship; an amusement park ride; drawbridges; a merry-go-round; several demolition machines!

(P.S. For any parents of elementary students wanting a more cost-friendly version of LEGO Mindstorms, I highly recommend LEGO Boost. At about $150, it is a somewhat simplified system, still with sensors, motors, and fully programmable using a block-based system. The only downside is that it does always need a tablet/phone/computer app to be running via Bluetooth to make it work.)

Day 5: Do Over
At this point in the camp, the kids have learned so many different things and have typically gravitated towards one or the other. Some of them think that LED illumination is the coolest thing, and others just can’t get enough of making CAD models online. So on the fifth day, Mr. Meadth and Mr. Eves issued a few more challenges of various sorts. The teams helped put together a welcome sign with their photo on it; they all constructed a wearable accessory lit up with more lights and batteries. Some made hats and funky glasses and others made glowing swords!

The fun keeps coming on Day 5!

Robot City continued to grow in complexity and variety. Some teams incorporated sensors into their robotic systems, using touch triggers and infrared detectors to more accurately control their elevators and bridges.

By the time parents arrived at 12:30, the teams were ready for the final wrap-up. All points were tallied, and the all-girl Green Team took the grand prize, much to their delight!

Parents were delighted to see everything
the kids had accomplished… and that
someone else was handling the cleanup!

Mr. Meadth and Mr. Eves would like to thank all families for making our third Robot City camp such a success! We intend to run this again in 2020 (new ideas are already in the works!), so please spread the word amongst family and friends. You can start by sharing this article with someone who might be interested! And remember, this camp is open to all students, not just those from Providence. We’re always glad to welcome new friends from outside our regular community.

Until next year, may these junior engineers keep on designing and keep on building!

Field Trip to Peabody Stadium

After many months of trying, the Providence Engineering Academy was finally able to secure a field trip to see… well, a field! Peabody Stadium, an integral part of the sporting complex at Santa Barbara High School for almost 100 years, has been greatly in need of renewal for a range of reasons—regular flooding, surface maintenance, seating capability, ADA compliance—and our engineering students were given a sneak peek at the behind-the-scenes process!
Our own neighborhood! Peabody Stadium (old image) to the
upper left, and Providence School to the lower right
A quick walk across Canon Perdido Street brought the group to the construction trailers, where Mat Gradias from Kruger Bensen Ziemer Architects, Inc. met them and introduced them to some members of the construction and design team. Mat has been involved with the Santa Barbara ACE Mentor Program, which several of our students (Eva, Victor, and Seung) have attended for the past two years.
Mat showed the construction plans, and described to the group some of the challenges facing the team, from sourcing grants to managing city wastewater ducts to preserving the “look and feel” of the local neighborhood. The team’s original completion date was April 2019, but is now projected for the middle of August.
Josh, Gabe, Victor, Ben, Todd, Colby, Eva, Alena, Claire, and
Madison facing north; behind is the new southern grandstand

There’s a lot of mud and dust right now, but over the next few weeks there’ll be seeing bright green artificial turf laid out. Regular flooding issues will be a thing of the past, with clever water management systems in the event of severe rainfall. Seating capacity will be greatly improved, and highly directional lighting and sound seeks to minimize light and noise pollution for the surrounding areas. The state-of-the-art track surface will be the only one of its kind for a hundred miles—a type of high-tech material that is known for producing world records.

The Engineering Academy was very grateful to Mat and the other presenters, and they’re already excited to see the finished product!

Gabe Farhadian: Honorable Mention

It’s always a delight to see one of our seniors finish up with a personal best. On the court, in the classroom, and in the community, we love to celebrate special accomplishments. This past week, Engineering Academy member Gabe Farhadian did just that!

Gabe Farhadian: Honorable Mention

For the second time, Providence School sent a group of students to the High School Design Competition put on by the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara. The seven students—Gabe, Eva, Seung, Joshua, James, Sam, and Zach—drove with Mr. Meadth up to Direct Relief‘s headquarters in Goleta (a gorgeous modern building in and of itself, if any extra inspiration was needed!). Armed to the teeth with T-squares, triangles, architectural scale rules, and custom-built drawing boards, the enthusiastic students listened carefully to the instructions for a particularly unique challenge.

The competition organizers gave everyone a large scale map of the State Street Theatre District, and described how they would need to redesign part of Victoria Street to become a pedestrian paseo, complete with apartments, public transport connections, and landscape gardening. The idea for this competition came from actual professional charrettes that took place in Santa Barbara not long ago, and is in keeping with possible future plans for that area.

All seven students took to the challenge with gusto. Those who participated last year already knew that six hours to work would not be enough, so they charged in and started drawing. Only a combination of creativity and technical drawing skill could succeed in the task, and we’d like to think our Providence Engineering students have a good measure of both!

Gabe’s complete set of drawings: a site map of the Theatre District,
a floor plan of an apartment, and various other details

The results came in the next day, and Gabe was listed as one of the top twelve finalists! (Both he and Joshua achieved this same honor last year, and had presented their designs to a panel of judges at the Alisal Guest Ranch in Santa Ynez.) This year, Gabe would head out to Dunn School in Los Olivos to talk through his design with the panel of experts.

Gabe (right) stands proudly with the top five

Gabe was first in line to present, with his family standing proudly by (Gabe’s mother, Katherine, is a local landscape architect). At the close of the event, he and one other student from Dunn School were awarded an honorable mention alongside the winners, who came from Laguna Blanca, Dos Pueblos, and Santa Ynez. Well done!
In the 2019-2020 school year, the younger section of the Providence Engineering Academy will spend a significant part of their time on architectural studies. Drawing to scale in plan and elevation, finding creative solutions in teams and as individuals, and using CAD software to represent ideas—there’s so much to look forward to as we seek to “inspire and equip” students to act as “imitators of a creative God.”

Tension + Integrity = Tensegrity

The Providence Engineering Academy seeks every year to put skills to use for the benefit of the community. From designing playground equipment to running science lessons, “we have an obligation to turn our skills outward to the world around us; we learn not for our own sakes” (quoted from the Engineering Academy application).

This year, the Advanced Engineering I students took on a challenge from our very own fitness guru, Scott Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell, who teaches middle school P.E. and runs our outdoor education program, is passionate about his craft. He wants students to understand the human body, in terms of both structure and motion. Mr. Mitchell has long used tensegrity structures as an analogy to help students visualize these principles.

What’s a tensegrity structure, you ask? While a formal definition is somewhat elusive, you know it when you see it. Popularized by the architect Buckmister Fuller and his student, sculptor Kenneth Snelson, these structures feature “compression members floating in a sea of tension.” Still confused?

Here’s an animated GIF from Wikipedia’s page:

The engineering class began with some small models, using elastic bands for the tension elements and wooden dowels for the compression struts.

Victor with the most simple of all tensegrity structures: three sticks
not touching
Victor and Todd with a six-member icosahedron
Josh finds a new use for the 12-stick version

As simple as these look, they take a great deal of effort to plan and assemble. But this was not the end goal; our class aimed to build a giant version of the icosahedron, with compression members 8 feet long!

Attempt 1:

A lot of knots tied to create 24 rope members. Attached lag bolts to 20 lb beams. Got it together and realized that everything was way too loose. Too much sag. Took it apart.

Alena carefully loops the non-slip knot over the bolt
Ben gets those bolts secured
Inital success and exuberance, but everything is far too loose

Attempt 2:

All rope connections shortened by 5 inches to tighten things up.  Unfortunate result: humanly impossible to pull together. Mr. Mitchell attempted to complete the final connections under great duress. Failure, bent bolts, and an abandoned attempt.

Attempt 3:

Straightened out bolts. Loosened all rope lengths by 2 inches. Realized that we can do this the easy way, working with the structure and not against it. Beams held in different orientation. Pulled it all together, but some bolts bent again. Much tighter, much easier, good result!

Colby and Todd compare the 8-foot version to the 12-inch!

Attempt 4:

Practice makes perfect! Rechecked all ropes, and found a few that were too long. Replaced all bolts with thicker ones twice as strong in bending. Worked in new orientation and got it together in under 10 minutes! (Compare this video to the last.)

Mr. Meadth tests it out before anyone else–in the name of safety,
of course!

Todd climbs inside once everything is approved

Eva’s turn!

In case it’s not clear from the pictures and videos alone, it has to be emphasized that none of the wooden beams you see are touching each other. Each of them is “floating in a sea of tension”, held in place by the 24 ropes. This is despite the fact that the entire structure weighs about 160 lb (73 kg).

Here’s another interesting observation: in the interest of safety, we strapped a force gauge to the ropes, and measured 150 lb of tension. (These ropes are rated up to 300 lb, so no problem!) But when Mr. Meadth climbed up on top, weighing about 155 lb himself, the rope tension only increased to 190 lb. How fascinating that 155 lb of live weight does not increase the rope tensions by that amount.

In fact, three people at one time were able to climb up on the structure (totalling more than 300 lb), but the max load reading never exceeded 250 lb, with no evidence of any structural problems.

It’s stable, folks! It beautifully and naturally distributes extra load all around to find equilibrium, much like the human body. Even as it moves, it naturally corrects, distorts, and stabilizes. Watch Todd roll a few feet in the following video.

Needless to say, Mr. Mitchell was delighted with the outcome, and brought his middle school P.E. students over to see, touch, and feel its dynamic responses. He taught them that the wooden beams are analagous to our bones, and the tensioned ropes are like our ligaments and tendons and muscles. Inspired by the work of Anatomy Trains, it’s easy to see what happens when our bodies are injured or out of alignment.

Great work, students! Keep on dreaming, designing, calculating, and serving others! Please share this article freely with friends and family.

A good day’s work!

Summer Camp 2018

It was such a roaring success the first time that we just had to do it all over again! The second annual Providence Engineering Summer Camp finished today, and the brightly lit robot city took wings with our special theme: SPACE. We all know it’s the final frontier, and our fifteen campers interpreted this idea in a multitude of ways. Alien invasion… meteorite shower… rocket launch… solar system buildings… 3D printed rockets and planets… so much fun!

Todd helps his team with some simple geometric designs

High school engineering students Joshua, Todd, Alena, and Sam led the charge each day teams of devoted campers from Providence and the broader community. We also had a good deal of help from Isabela! These excellent engineers taught the campers how to build electronic circuits, program robots, 3D print fantastic creations, and design out-of-this-world architecture. Illuminated buildings towered high above the cityscape as tiny robots darted to and fro. Electrified copper rails ran this way and that carrying power to critical components, with printed sculptures dotting the landscape.

Success! A single 3 V coin battery powers nine blue LEDs…
or is it only eight?
There was no messing around, either—these elementary students learned their stuff! You can ask them what “LED” stands for, and what a “forever loop” might be used for. They know how to build a working switch out of paper and copper foil, and some of them even used their movie-making skills to record short action videos!
The Robot City landscape continues to become
increasingly illuminated
As the days went by, the creations became increasingly complex. First was the skyscraper that was literally taller than Mr. Meadth. Then came the red/orange/green traffic light by the illuminated airstrip. 3D printed costumes were designed (by the campers, of course) for the tiny Ozobots in the shape of cars, rockets, and trains. And—of course—there was the obligatory fiesta of robot dance parties, all happening in perfect synchronization.
A delightful blue flower stands bold and tall
The end of each day came all too quickly. With lots to take home, we hope these happy campers will continue to code, invent architecture, and design circuits all summer long! Enjoy the rest of the photos, and we hope to have as many of you as possible back next year!
The 3D CAD model (computer aided design), becomes—by magic!—
a brightly lit reality
A tall rocket stands beside a crashed alien spacecraft
Our campers working hard to create all manner of new buildings
The tallest skyscraper in the room, complete with embedded
meteorites and emergency beacons
The Copper Rocket throws an eerie light out onto the empty streets

The giant completed city!

Homelessness and Architecture

Earlier this year, our Upper School students spent a day of service around Santa Barbara, with a theme of “homelessness”. Students spent time at PATH Santa Barbara, Showers of Blessing, and Food Forward, to name just a few organizations. Our school also has a long history of working with the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and Habitat for Humanity. So when the time came this year to finish with a major architectural design project, the connection was obvious.

After reviewing some typical architectural projects aimed at alleviating the burden of homelessness, such as the Los Angeles Star Apartments, we decided to pay a visit to those working directly with the homeless. A visit to the Rescue Mission was eye-opening; our host Trinity handed out the hard hats and led us around the Yanonali Street property.

Trinity leading the group around the Rescue Mission’s construction zone

The Rescue Mission was in dire need of renovations, having been built in 1987 for the express purpose of housing and training the homeless of Santa Barbara. After over 30 years of unending community service in that location, the Mission sought to bring their facilities up to date, while still maintaining their daily commitment to receive, feed, and shelter anyone coming through the doors. As such, the project is being carried out in phases.

At the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission; from left to right: Joshua,
Peter, Ben, Todd, Alena, Nolan, Ava, Madison, Sam, Pedro, Caleb,
and Mr. Meadth

The students also took the chance to walk down the street and meet with Jon, the CEO of the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Jon showed the group through a typical low-income housing development, describing how successful applicants to the program provide their own “sweat equity” to help meet the cost of a new home. The students were also fascinated by the various technologies used to keep costs down during and after construction: special framing standards, highly insulated rooms, and solar panels.

The team stands with Jon from Habitat for Humanity on their
East Canon Perdido Street location

Back in the classroom, the challenge was issued: design a one-storey building in downtown Santa Barbara for a new Catholic homeless shelter. Constraints were described regarding occupancy, setbacks, and parking. Students were encouraged to consider how the architecture itself might support the intended mission. How can open, plant-filled community spaces promote mental health and serenity? How does a well-designed building give its occupants dignity?

Todd and Ava consider their various design elements, with Todd
on SketchUp and Ava drawing plans by hand

A typical day right now is humming with energy! Ben, Alena, Todd, Caleb, and Josh are hard at work creating CAD models in SketchUp (a free 3D tool used by many architects and product designers). Nolan, Madison, Ava, Peter, and Pedro are drawing scaled floor plans to match the CAD model. Armed with their wits and some architectural rulers, they are carefully tracking the details of corridor widths and parking space sizes. Sam is also building a physical model for his team out of balsa, foamboard, and other various materials. In total, five different designs are in production.

Ben and Nolan working hard to ensure the paper plans match
perfectly with the CAD model; their third teammate Sam (not
pictured) is working on the physical scale model

We’re extra grateful to Trinity from the Rescue Mission, who came by class this week to provide feedback to the student teams, one by one. Her advice was invaluable, as one who already knows firsthand the practical implications of the various design elements.

Pedro explains his floor plan to Trinity during class this week

The Providence Engineering Academy is asking the question: how can we bring our skills and knowledge to bear on a world full of problems and in need of the love of Christ? Through meeting with local homeless people, hearing from the ministries that serve them, and through technical training, we hope to ignite a skillful passion for the world around us.

Reach out to Rod Meadth for questions and comments. Don’t forget to share the word about our incredible summer camp, which also includes architectural themes: Robot City!

Architectural Competition in Santa Ynez

If you had been lurking around the Upper Campus at 6:55 am on Tuesday the 13th of March, braving the rain and stumbling about in the dark, you might just have caught sight of a strange and unusual thing: eight high school students and one teacher loading up into a white van. Wielding scale rulers, plastic triangles, and mechanical pencils, these intrepid adventurers had only two things in mind—the Santa Barbara High School Architectural Competition, and a desire for strong coffee.

Victor, Gabe, and Trevor: together in life, together in architecture!

All grades were represented in the group: Tys (our sole senior); Eva, Gabe, Josh, Trevor, and Victor (juniors); Peter (sophomore); Josh (freshman). They arrived at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, and quickly found their way to the gymnasium. Along with about 50 other high school students from Dos Pueblos, San Marcos, Santa Ynez, Dunn, St. Joseph’s, Santa Maria, and more, they listened attentively as the design challenge was described.

Josh and Peter read the design brief carefully as the
competition begins

The challenge: to design a new fire station that would be both functional and attractive, having a natural “park-like” feel. Constraints were given as to fire truck bay dimensions, equipment lockers, living quarters requirements. Particular difficulty lay in the small size of the property described. Not to be fazed, the students launched into it with gusto!

This competition has been running annually for the last 27 years, conceived and managed by David Goldstien from the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara.  Recent winners have come from Dos Pueblos, Laguna Blanca, St. Joseph’s, and Dunn. This is the first year that Providence has entered the competition; David reached out personally to our school this year to make us aware and extend his invitation.

Tys, Eva, and Josh working hard and enjoying the day!

It was a long day of creating professional-style scale drawings (site plan, floor plans, and elevations), but the students all agreed that the seven hours had flown by, and they could have done with just a little more time! Gabe commented that this was the “the best icebreaker you could do to get into the world of architecture.” Trevor noted that the whole experience “helped us understand how to spend time wisely.”

The entries were judged on the same day by practicing architects, and within 24 hours we received some good news: Josh and Gabe had both placed in the top twelve, and were asked to present their designs to the final panel at the Alisal Guest Ranch!

Gabe describes the nuances of his plans to the judges
Josh prepares for his own spiel

In the end, the competition was won by Vivian from Dunn School in Los Olivos. Vivian has placed amongst the winners in years past, and so was well prepared to take the lead. However, our congratulations go out to all of our eight students, and especially Josh and Gabe, who represented Providence so well in their very first attempt. A supervising teacher from Santa Maria commented on the difference that our students exhibit: her students have commented that they want “the Providence confidence!”

Josh and Gabe proudly stand for a photo at the Alisal

The Providence Engineering Academy teaches many different aspects of design and engineering, in its pursuit to “inspire and equip students to find creative solutions to the world’s problems through mathematics, science, and engineering, as imitators of a creative God.” Architecture is but one of those many exciting elements, and we congratulate all of our participants for their creativity and hard work. For more information on our engineering programs, contact Rod Meadth or download the application packet from the sidebar of this website.

Field Trip: Santa Barbara Forge + Iron

Not far from our Upper Campus is an exciting center of creativity and design. With ties to Westmont College, Providence, and our own Mr Hurt, it’s the most natural place in the world to take our engineering students for inspiration…

Santa Barbara Forge + Iron!

Led by Dan and Andy Patterson, the people at Forge + Iron design, hammer, cut, and sculpt all manner of metal creations. You can see their work around town, most recently in the lighting fixtures at MOXI on Lower State Street.

Dan shows the ten students a piece of heavy machinery, designed
to cut through the thickest pieces of steel without blinking–no
touching allowed!

Over the din of hammers and ventilation fans, the students saw some fascinating works in progress. We found a good case study, too, where Dan had begun his designs in the CAD program SketchUp. While the students so far this year have been using a solid-based cloud CAD program called Onshape, they will be switching to SketchUp for the second semester. Creating the three-dimensional model up front allowed Dan to visualize the product, express his ideas to others, and spot potential challenges. Moreover, he was able to export particular decorative geometry from the design, and upload it to their plasma cutter to get just the right shape from the beginning.
The students look on as Dan moves the plasma cutter through its
three degrees of freedom

Computer models and computer-controlled cutting are then combined with the artistry and experience of the master; the team hammers and weathers the precision-cut piece to give it more character.
Students pass by as Andy gives attention to an iron archway,
destined for an existing window frame in Santa Barbara

The brothers’ passion for excellence in creativity came through loud and clear. Since our own students are wrapping up their Educational Design Project, where they meet with a client and work with them to develop a satisfactory 3D-printed product, the example of what this looks like in the professional world was well timed.
May we ever be inspired! Thanks to the brothers Patterson for their warm welcome, and to Mr. Rockney for coming along as an extra chaperone.

Wild West Town—Completed!

If you’ve visited the Providence Lower Campus in the last couple of weeks, you might have noticed an exciting new development in the Grove. Lo and behold, the Providence Engineering Academy has completed its children’s playground project—and just in time for the new year!


The completed project, in place at the Lower Campus Grove

For those who have been following along, you’ll notice that this project has moved through different stages through the year. Our original plan from the first day of school was to have the six Advanced Engineering I students design and build a children’s playground for the Grove. The students met with Mr. Knoles as the client, came up with a woodsy theme, wrote and received a grant from the local EnergyPartners Fund, learned about California safety standards, created a detailed CAD model, constructed a physical 1:16 model to put on display, and ran many structural calculations to inform their design. For more details of where we got to, check out this post from February.

After a couple of months, we realized that although the plans were solid, there were a lot more moving parts in the mix than could be resolved this year. Having already received our grant for materials and tools, and having a month of the school year still set aside for construction, we quickly changed tack. The students brainstormed along different lines: what could we design and build that would be small, fast, portable, safe, and a ton of fun?

Answer: the Wild West town!

In an amazing display of teamwork and ingenuity, the six students (Aaron, Tys, Sarah Jane, Kylie, Caleb, and senior Jake) quickly produced a set of plans to communicate the idea to our client and provide useful tools for estimating, purchasing, and construction.

Front view: restaurant, shop, house

The town would be built in two sections, each 12 feet long, about 5 feet high, and 4 feet deep. Six distinct rooms would be included: a restaurant, a general store, a residential home, a train station, a sheriff’s office, and a jail.

Perspective: train station, sheriff, jail (CAD model unfinished)

With approval from the Lower School, the students set to work. Bethany Bodenhamer, one of our industrious Lower School parents, negotiated with Home Depot and coordinated the deliveries of tools and lumber. Marty Robertson graciously allowed us the use of his miter saw for the entire duration of the construction. Peter Bohlinger also loaned many high quality tools used throughout the construction.

And so the work began! The backyard of the Upper Campus was converted to a scene of enthusiastic creativity. The six students, with their varying levels of experience, quickly grew in their confidence in measuring, cutting, and attaching the lumber—and always with safety eyewear, of course!


The play structure develops over the course of several weeks

When school let out in June, the students had made a terrific start on the structural framing, and some of the siding. Who knew that trigonometry had practical application?!

From left to right: Tys, Jake, Aaron, Kylie, and Caleb

In this image, the CAD model has been added as an overlay
to help visualize the final product

Clockwise from top: Aaron, Kylie, Sarah Jane, Tys, and Caleb
show off their craftsmanship

The restaurant nears completion (left); the framing for the railway
station, sheriff, and jail is practically complete

The reverse angle view in the backyard

Once summer came, others pitched in to help. Visiting alumnus and founding member of the Providence Engineering Academy Gabe Clark worked alongside Jake and Tys; Mr. Hurt brought his wife (great with child) and parents; Mr. Meadth’s son Asher even lent a hand!

Tys (in the window), Jake (middle) and Gabe helped secure the
roof and siding for the general store

Five Hurts across three generations! This family means business

Dad got them started, and Asher finished them off

A good deal of work was also done on adding finishing touches—it’s the little things that count!


A double-swinging door for the restaurant, just to give that classic
kickin’-in-the-door outlaw feel

A sink and counter adds the homely touch

Solid steel bars divide the sheriff from his catch of the day

The ticket counter for the railway station sports wrought-iron
decorative work

In case there was any mistaking which one was the sheriff’s office!

Finally, five strong friends of the school helped Mr. Meadth load the four separate pieces and transport them to the Lower Campus—one 500 lb piece at a time. After a bit of practice, the complete round trip was timed at 40 minutes! Of course, Ms. Svoboda was on hand to document the experience.


Ready—lift! Is that one of our new 7th Graders?

We certainly turned heads driving down State Street!

A place for everything and everything in its place!

A final word of thanks goes out to two parties. The EnergyPartners Fund generously provided what was necessary to go out and do this. They have been loyal supports of our program for several years now, and we are indebted to them. And naturally, well done to the six young engineers who envisioned this, designed it, and sweated it out. Mack Fixler at MOXI and his high-powered laser cutter have ensured that their place of honor will stand for time immemorial.

Thanks, EnergyPartners Fund!

Six strangely familiar villains, immortalized through the
magic of lamination and synchronized photons

Who knows what the coming year will bring? Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog, and we’ll let you know! And go explore the Wild West town next time you’re there; you won’t be disappointed.

Til next time!