BCEF Launches Engineering Design Certification at BHS

The Batesville Community Education Foundation (BCEF) has added another program to provide Batesville High School (BHS) students with an advantage over their peers. Thanks to a grant from BCEF, BHS students enrolled in Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering courses will now have the opportunity to obtain engineering design software user certification at no cost, announced BCEF executive director Anne Wilson.  BHS is one of only a few high schools in the state currently offering this testing opportunity.

“For several years, BCEF has been funding certification costs for BHS students who are enrolled in Ivy Tech programs that culminate in taking an exam to prove their competency in a certain field, such as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs),” Wilson explained. “It’s a tangible way that our foundation can assist our students who are pursuing careers that require certification, so they don’t have to pay a penny for those tests out-of-pocket. So far, we’ve supplied BHS with just over $17,000 in certification reimbursement funding. When PLTW teacher Craig Hughes told us that he wanted BHS to become an official testing center for the design software exams so his students could become certified, we wanted to learn more about the program to see if it would be a good fit for what we’re already doing.”

Hughes attended the April BCEF board meeting to present his proposal to the members of the foundation. During his presentation, he stressed how PLTW has long-partnered with the vendor Autodesk to incorporate Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software into its curricula to provide students with learning experiences that use the same industry-grade software used by engineers, designers, architects, and makers. In the various engineering design courses at BHS, students use the software as a design tool for various activities, projects, and problems, such as designing a puzzle cube, laser-cut bridge designs, and aquatic devices for collection of plastic pollution. In the civil engineering course, students use the software, to design, document, and create physical models of projects like a utility shed.

“There are two levels of certification within the Autodesk program,” Hughes explained to the BCEF board. “The Autodesk Certified User (ACU) certification, which our students will be pursuing, is an industry-recognized credential that can effectively start students’ careers as designers, engineers, and makers. The non-expiring certification is an excellent way for students with about 150 hours of real-world Autodesk software experience to validate their software skills.”

According to Hughes, earning this level of certification while in school will give students confidence as they continue to master Autodesk products and potentially pursue professional-level certification in the future. In addition, these certifications will enhance their higher education applications and resumes by providing evidence of competency and proficiency.

“One of the goals of BCEF is to provide innovative programs that give Batesville Community School Corporation (BCSC) students a competitive edge,” Wilson said, “so we wanted to know what this certification will do on a practical level for these students who are pursuing mechanical engineering or related fields in college.  According to Hughes, these industry credentials will be helpful for students who may be seeking a part-time job for summer, co-op, or internships in college. After college, they will definitely help with obtaining a full-time job that may need computer-aided design skills for the desired position. This will separate them from others who don’t have the certification. If an employer asks how well-versed they are in the software, this credential shows they have achieved mastery of the objectives outlined by the ACU, which is much preferred to the user who simply used it in high school. That sounded like a worthwhile program so BHS graduates would be well-prepared for the workforce.”

Upon learning more about Hughes’ plan, the BCEF board of directors approved adding this new certification designation to its existing list of programs receiving support annually. Before the 2021-22 school year ends, 23 of the Autodesk exams will be administered by Hughes at BHS, hopefully resulting in certification for all of the test takers.