Top-Ranked Arizona High Schools Offer UA Engineering Introductory Course

In U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings of Arizona public high schools, six of the top 20 participate in the UA’s Engineering 102 High School program, and three of the six are listed among the top 15 in the nation.

Some of the best high schools in Arizona -- and two of the top five nationwide -- are giving students hands-on engineering experience with ENGR 102 High School, an adapted version of the University of Arizona’s required introductory engineering course.

In U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 Best High School rankings, six Arizona public high schools participating in ENGR 102 HS were ranked as follows:

Greater Tucson
• Basis Oro Valley High School: No. 3 in Arizona; No. 3 nationwide
• University High School: No. 6 in Arizona; No. 15 nationwide
• Catalina Foothills High School: No. 14 in Arizona; No. 789 nationwide

Greater Phoenix
• BASIS Peoria High School: No. 4 in Arizona; No. 5 nationwide*
• Chaparral High School: No. 16 in Arizona; No. 1,051 nationwide
• Hamilton High School: No. 20 in Arizona; No. 1,372 nationwide

The list was compiled from data on more than 22,000 public high schools, including some charter schools, with an emphasis on graduation rate and performance on state proficiency tests. Also considered were diversity, participation in free or reduced-price lunch programs and enrollment in Advanced Placement courses.

“We are proud that six of our partnering high schools are so highly ranked in the state and the nation,” said Jill Rogers, assistant director of the program. “The collaboration between the UA College of Engineering and partner high schools is a model for the country.”

The ENGR 102 HS program has grown from 21 students in one Arizona high school in 2008 to nearly 2,000 students in 37 high schools, including one in California, in 2016-2017; five more high schools will begin participating in fall 2017.

The semester-long college course is expanded to a full academic year for high school students, most of them seniors, who learn the fundamentals of daunting subjects like physics and calculus in the familiar setting of their classrooms and from their own teachers and practicing engineers.

Students who take the course for college credit -- at a steeply discounted rate -- can apply the three units towards an engineering degree at any Arizona public university or college. Six hundred students took the class in the 2016-2017 academic year, about half of them for college credit.

Building Bridges

“The main thing I try to instill in my students is that they don’t have to know everything to be engineers,” said Jim Clark, who has taught the course at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona, to some 350 students over the years with another 50 enrolled for the coming academic year.

“They need to learn something really well so they can contribute on a small team. I stress to students that their ability to work on a team, and communicate with other people and teams, is what will make or break the success of their project.”

Clark’s Engineering 102 HS students have designed and modeled projects ranging from cardboard canoes to balsa wood bridges and model rocket trajectories to Lego prosthetic hands.

Teachers like Clark have helped the program gain recognition, including a Best Practices in K-12 and University Partnerships Award from the American Society for Engineering Education in 2014.

Seniors at Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic High School presented their ENGR 102 HS projects on their campus on April 28 as part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS, high school program.

*BASIS Peoria High School will begin offering ENGR 102 HS in fall 2017.


Top picture: A highlight of the on-campus section of Engineering 102 is the annual Solar Oven Throw Down, in which freshmen test solar ovens they design and built themselves.