When tech teacher Steve Lavinio arrived at Mattituck High School in 2001, the school had only six computers in its technology lab. But in that tiny room was evidence that the district was ahead of the curve when it came to teaching kids the modern ways of engineering.
That’s because Mattituck’s tech lab boasted a digital drafting program called AutoCAD.
Fast-forward 13 years: Mr. Lavinio’s classroom has expanded into an adjacent space, with enough room for 21 computers, a plotting printer and drafting tables. Some of his former students have gone on to study engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology and Cornell University — and one even landed his dream job building park rides for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
“[Students have] told me that they wouldn’t have done as well if they didn’t learn AutoCAD,” Mr. Lavinio said. “It really gives them the leg up.”
The district upgraded to the program’s latest edition in 2012 and has committed to a plan to upgrade annually, he said. In addition to AutoCAD, the school now has two other software programs from AutoCAD’s creator, Autodesk: Inventor, a 3D drafting program, and Revit, an architectural drafting program.
With Inventor, students can take apart assembled machinery and use the program to calculate how to put it back together. Last year, one student disassembled the circulator pump from a hot-water heater by drawing different components, then made calculations on how to assemble it in Inventor, and the software made the drawing. Other students used Inventor to take apart and put together a lawn mower crank shaft, a sliding T-bevel that measures lumber and a fan clutch used in trucks.
“This came off my old pickup truck,” Mr. Lavinio said, pointing to the fan clutch. “If I find some weird stuff like this I’ll save it for a student to draw.”
The district upgraded the classroom’s computer and server system last year, allowing it to process the Autodesk programs’ large files.
In addition to earning college credits through Farmingdale State College, students in Mr. Lavinio’s classes also receive Autodesk’s software for free on their personal computers for three years.
Although learning how to use drafting programs is a big focus in Mr. Lavinio’s class, students are also learning about engineering through traditional methods.
Mr. Lavinio said he still teaches a design and drawing course that uses pencil and paper, because he believes learning how to draw by hand is still an important skill for students to learn. The course also satisfies the high school’s art class requirement.
Junior Matthew Wells said he’s learning how to use AutoCAD because he wants to study naval engineering in college. Sophomore Chris Massey, whose father, Doug, is a local woodworker and owns Mattituck Millwork, said he’s learning how to use the drafting program because he enjoys working with computers and technology and is also thinking about becoming an electrical engineer to design new electronics and cell phones.
Sophomore Dale Stonemetz said he was inspired by his father, Dale Sr., a builder with Sandpebble in Southampton, to study mechanical and electrical engineering. Dale said he wants to learn how to build homes because he enjoys the type of problem-solving that goes along with creating a house. He’d like to have his own engineering and construction management company one day.
“I’ve always loved that feeling of ‘I built that. I was the person that worked on that,’” Dale said.