Francis Tuttle Pre-Engineering Academy prepares students for career
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2015 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Jackson Jandreau graduated from Putnam North High School this past spring and is now a freshman engineering student at Oklahoma State University.
In August, after his first week in Stillwater, Jandreau turned around and headed home.
It wasn’t because he didn’t like OSU or because freshman engineering was too tough. Jandreau had to return to Oklahoma City to sign the paperwork associated with his first patent.
During high school, Jandreau attended the Pre-engineering academy at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. The Academy is specifically designed to prepare students to succeed in engineering in college.
“When I see grade-school drawings of myself, I am wearing a lab coat, so I guess I always knew some sort of science or technology was what I wanted to do. But I wasn’t even sure what an engineer was when I started going to the Academy,” Jandreau said.
For their senior year capstone project, Jandreau and his two closest friends (they still are) set out to find a water-proof coating for wire to keep ice from forming on and then breaking electrical lines. But when they called up (without any introduction) a lead engineer for power lines at OG&E, they learned that their idea had been tried and abandoned as unworkable.
Instead, the engineer told them, if they could just find a way to make the wooden planks that run perpendicular to the power poles stronger, it could produce a real advantage in terms of service and cost.
So, under the guidance of their instructor at Francis Tuttle, Jimmy Bollman, Jandreau and his teammates came up with a new lightweight crossbeam for utility poles.
“If you have ever had a passionate teacher, you know what a big effect it has on students,” Jandreau said. “Teachers who stay as late at night as you need them to or come in early, just to help.”
The “Resilient Cross Arm” showed such promise that Bollman shepherded the students through the patent process; in August, patent-pending status was granted. Bollman says that there have been three patents filed by Academy students in the last two years.
“This is new territory for high schools,” he said. “Our initial focus is to simply get the students to patent-worthy ideas. When we find out we can take it further than that, it’s a great way to stimulate the students.”
Less than 40 percent of college students who enter STEM programs complete STEM degrees. Research indicates that students who arrive better prepared, especially in advanced mathematics, are more likely to succeed.
That’s the design of Francis Tuttle Pre-Engineering Academy — rigorously preparing school students with the aptitude and interest in science and math to become more engaged, committed, and ready to tackle the challenge of college engineering courses and the opportunities that a STEM career can bring.
And sometimes they achieve patents along the way.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.