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SDS/2 Success Story: Howard High School of Technology

SDS/2 Success Story: Howard High School of Technology

Howard High School student modelHoward High School students Carlos Marcano and Matt Cratty created this SDS/2 model based on an existing model made out of balsa wood.

When Wilmington, Delaware-based Howard High School of Technology opted to eliminate its technical drafting program four years ago, local detailers pitched the idea of substituting an SDS/2 curriculum. Though there was some initial resistance to the plan – whether high school students could handle the software was a main concern – the school initiated a pilot program.

The program involved 12 seniors who spent about 90 hours in SDS/2. “They were highly successful with it,” said Patrick Mulhern, the instructor for Howard High's structural steel detailing program. That first crop of students made a presentation to the local board of education to show them what SDS/2 could do.

Not only did they make an impression on the board – the program was approved the next morning, something Mulhern said is unheard of – they impressed the local detailers who were on hand as well. “All the clientele that were there were bidding on the kids, trying to get them for a dollar more an hour than the next guy,” said Mulhern. And with that, Howard High's SDS/2 program was launched.

Howard High School student modelMarcano created a spiral staircase for the model.

Program Blueprint

Howard High's in-depth SDS/2 program begins during students' sophomore year. After an introduction to blueprint reading and AutoCAD, students start training on SDS/2, learning the basics of detailing and connections. As juniors, the same students begin working on miscellaneous projects, learning the ins and outs of connections and modeling.

As seniors, Mulhern's students take on real-world projects. A structural engineer by trade, Mulhern gives the students projects from his own firm and from local clientele. “They'll have an SDS/2 job, an SDS/2 checking job, a scrubbing job and a small AutoCAD job,” said Mulhern, whose goal is to give students a feel for a real detailing or engineering office.

Howard High's unique structure – the selective vocational school offers 13 different career programs – has seniors in a rotation of working for two weeks and then in the classroom for two weeks during the school year. Mulhern's new group of seniors has 100 percent employment for the upcoming school year.

Students often spend summers working on SDS/2 as well. Two of Howard High's soon-to-be-seniors will be spending the next few months at Summit Steel, Inc., in New Castle, Delaware, alternating between working on SDS/2 in the office and working in the shop.

On the Career Path

Carlos Marcano, one of the students who will be working at Summit Steel this summer, sits at the top of his structural steel detailing class.

This past year, Marcano and fellow Howard High School student Matt Cratty embarked on a new project that took a model house – made out of balsa wood by a Howard High carpentry class – and translated it into SDS/2. “It started as a small experiment that Mr. Mulhern asked if we would like to do and we accelerated faster than he thought,” Marcano said.

Howard High School student modelCratty was responsible for designing the model's roof.

Marcano and Cratty ran into some obstacles along the way. The two hadn't yet learned how to do stairs in SDS/2, so Mulhern suggested they try their hand at a spiral staircase. Marcano found specs online and they created the spiral staircase themselves. “I made one member, it was a column, and the steps were material that I cut and fitted all the way up,” Marcano said.

They also had to “lie” to the system because the house is actually wood and not steel, Marcano explained. He called that little bit of deception, “Probably the best lie I've ever told.”

Their project turned out so well, in fact, that Marcano and Cratty will be submitting their model for Design Data's Solid Steel Competition this year.

Marcano sees himself sticking with SDS/2 in the future. “You have to find something you really love, and you go from there,” he said. “I'm learning what I love to do. It's not a job, it's a career path,” Marcano said.