A Force of Innovation

Evan Garneau (‘20) is a football player, STEM student, and a Star Wars fan. When brainstorming ideas for special engineering projects, he came across an idea that presented a unique challenge – building his own lightsaber from scratch. 

Evan took initiative on the project from start to finish, with some help from STEM Coordinator Rick Russon when needed. He found a blueprint that helped him 3-D print the chassis of the lightsaber, wire the buttons, align the blade, wire the LED lights, and program it all. One of his end goals was to program the saber to change color and make the iconic saber sounds.

“Wiring the button was the most challenging part. It worked out a little differently than the direction on the plans I found, so I had to test it through lots of trial and error,” Garneau says.

In engineering, that’s all part of the process. An engineer himself, Russon applauds Garneau’s initiative. “That’s the ideal way to do it: Pick a project, pursue it, and learn. He’s doing what an engineer does. You see something of interest, start doing it, and when you run into a problem, seek help.” 

Thinking Outside the Box

Other students in Russon’s Introduction to Engineering and Design class are encouraged to do the same thing. Since it’s an elective class, the content of the course can be altered to fit the students’ specific interests.

Collaboration with other departments helps open students’ eyes to the many possibilities in front of them. “We spend time in the library learning how to research, and then Hayes Trotter from the Arts Department will come into our class to teach us about concepts of Design Thinking,” Russon says.

At the end of the course, students find that engineering is more than wiring, 3-D printing, and coding. They learn how to view the world and its problems through a lens of ingenuity, curiosity and a willingness to take on challenges and fail until they succeed. Valor’s STEM program gives students the freedom to learn and explore, and sometimes that means building a lightsaber just for the fun of it.

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