Meridian students engineer Christmas light displays

MERIDIAN, ID - Everybody loves Christmas lights, especially during the holidays; and engineering students in the West Ada School District are making light displays of their own.

“I’ve always liked engineering,” said Jacob Zollinger, tenth-grader. 

Students in Sarah Oosterhuis’ Principles of Engineering class are busier than Santa’s helpers, working on a Christmas-themed project that has quickly become a school year staple.

“Ideally, a lot of their projects end up being sort of Christmas houses that you would put in like, a nativity scene or a little Christmas set-up,” Oosterhuis said. “But they do all kinds of different stuff.”

Oosterhuis’ “Laser & Lights” project has her students creating a 3D house model, which they’ll cut out of wood, using a laser. Then come the lights. 

“There’s four LEDs on the inside, with eight resistors, to get the right resistance,” Zollinger said. “…which we have to do all of the math for.”

The students design the LED circuit by creating a schematic and "breadboarding" the components.

“This is the battery, and if I put it back in here, the lights will actually come back on,” explained Dakota Pearce, a tenth-grader.

Once that’s done, they solder the final circuit and assemble their houses.

Oosterhuis’ class feeds into the district’s engineering pathway, which offers a specialized focus at the Career and Technical Education Center.

About 33 students chose this rigorous elective. Oosterhuis even had to get an additional computer for her classroom.

“These are kids that are going to go somewhere,” Oosterhuis said. “They’re working hard and they know what they want.” 

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