Engineering team builds inspiration for one million teens

Paul GustafsonPaul Gustafson ’09
Engineering major
Chester, Vermont

“Whatever your plans are for the summer, cancel them. I’ve got the best job for you that you’ll ever have.” Those immortal words—etched indelibly in Paul Gustafson’s memory—led to a once-in-a-lifetime experience for this Messiah engineering major and honors program participant.

At the time, Gustafson ’09, was trying to land a summer internship at NASA. When time passed without an offer, he figured “God knew something better was coming my way.”

So when Don Pratt, Messiah College professor of engineering, invited Gustafson to join him on the PBS award-winning show “Design Squad” in Boston for the entire summer of 2008, Gustafson knew God had been faithful, and eagerly packed his bags for the new adventure.

“I chose engineering because God blessed me with a technological/math- oriented mind and here was an opportunity to use that gift and enjoy myself at the same time.” 

“Design Squad”, viewed by more than one million teens each week, guides two groups of high school contestants as they design, build, test, and present products for a real-life client, while keeping their eyes on the grand prize—a $10,000 college scholarship provided by the Intel Foundation.  Gustafson joined Professor Pratt and fellow engineering student Emily Howell 10 in designing ten engineering challenges for the cast of high school students. “We prepared for each challenge several weeks before filming for that episode started, and then we built prototypes or mockups to see how feasible they were.”

The exact details of the technical challenges designed by Messiah’s team remain a secret, only to be disclosed during episodes scheduled to air in late summer 2009.  Pratt, however, says the projects involve a Jamaican dog sled team, hurricane relief work, and wheelchair rugby—areas requiring both relevant and creative engineering (link here for an insider’s view of the team’s work on the program).

Gustafson, a student homeschooled through the twelfth grade, says the “Design Squad” experience opened new doors for him. “My experience with ‘Design Squad’ will be helpful on my résumé since I learned a lot about the process of engineering, from recognizing a need all the way through the repeated overhauls at the end to make sure everything works.”  And of his hopes for the millions of “Design Squad “viewers:  “Kids will see that engineering isn’t just for geniuses!”


Posted in 2009, Engineering, Faculty, Honors Program, Internships, Majors & Minors | Comments Off

Posted on March 3rd, 2009

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