Engineering students benefit from Educational Partnership

Engineering students benefit from Educational PartnershipBy LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

Damien Jacotin, Burroughs High School (BHS) teacher of AP Calculus, AP Physics, and Digital Electronics tells us the Educational Partnership Agreement between Naval Air Weapons Center Warfare Division and BHS will benefit engineering students by giving them “access to some hardware and equipment that most high schools don’t have. Some of the surplus equipment, like oscilloscopes and function generators, cost $800 a piece. On base, there are digital oscilloscopes that are in the 1000s of dollars, if not a lot more than that. When they deem those things obsolete, that’s fantastic to me, because it’s better than anything I had. That allows the kids to see what this equipment is and to be able to touch it. Otherwise, the kids would see pictures of it or they would use equipment of a lower quality.

It gives students experience working with machines that they will work with as technicians, engineers or as scientists, that they would otherwise just be talked about here. They are able to turn the knobs, plug into devices and make sense of lectures and theory.”

Right now one group of students is building a vending machine from scratch. “It’s not just about projects, it’s how to design things, how to apply the theoretical knowledge. It’s about guiding the students so that when they have wonderful ideas, they might not realize whether it’s really possible within their set of skills and knowledge. So I intervene and say,’This would work if we had $1,000 to invest. But with what we have, you might want to modify these kinds of things.’ At the beginning of the year, it’s ‘Let me tell you and show you how things work.’ After that is almost more like a guidance...facilitating the ideas to help them make them happen.

I am privileged, as far as teaching is concerned. I teach students who want to learn these kind of things. Everybody has to take English, everybody has to take history. And if the teacher is lucky enough to have students who are interested in a subject, it’s fantastic. I don’t have to be a cheerleader. I don’t have to convince them of the validity of what I teach them. They are there because they choose to be.”

Jacotin has been teaching at BHS since 2004. The engineering program was started in 2008, “because there was a need to grow local talent in this kind of skill subjects.” The program is the result of a symposium of leaders from the base and from the mining industry in Trona and Boron. Jacotin calls the current program “a grandchild” of the original.

Born and raised in France, Jacotin earned his degree in Mechanical Engineering in a Germany university. A position at Crystal Geyser brought him to Lone Pine, California. While there he maintained the equipment. He taught at Hoover High School in Glendale and Pasadena City College.

“When I first came to Ridgecrest, my citizenship status didn’t allow me to have security clearance so I could not even think about working as an engineer on base.” He accepted a teaching position at BHS. “When Burroughs wanted to create an engineering program, I said, ‘If you let me do it, it’s going to be fun. I know I can take it somewhere.’

I have a lot of students who became engineers, scientists. Quite a few are working on base. Some of them are teachers at Burroughs. I have a student who is wonderful for us. She works as a software designer for Adobe and they are very generous in supporting the robotics club.” Adobe will match donated funds, a program initiated by his former student.

“I’m always looking for people to be involved in mentoring kids after school or in engineering and robotics.” Jacotin can be reached via e-mail: djacotin@ssusd.org

Laura Austin Photo: Damien Jacotin, center, discusses a project with students Bryce Halterman (L) and Logan Burnes (R) in the Digital Electronics classroom.

Story First Published: 2022-05-13