MT. PLEASANT — Over 200 Wasatch Academy (WA) students, teachers, leaders, alumni and friends gathered together Sept. 21 to dedicate the recently completed engineering building located at 50 South State, Mt. Pleasant.
The many people assembled were welcomed by Head of School Joseph Loftin who introduced many of the dignitaries in attendance. The fraternal society of The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Utah presented the cornerstone for the building and put it in place during dedication ceremonies.
Loftin also related a brief history of how the building came to be. He explained that there used to be three buildings on the location. The building on the north end of the three was being used as a shop to sell candles and crystals.
The shop owner contacted Wasatch Academy with the desire to sell the building if WA was interested. The academy was indeed interested due to a need for added classroom space, so the school’s board of trustees agreed to purchase the building with the intent to repair the structure.
It was also learned that the other two buildings were for sale so the purchase of them was also completed. The initial plan and intention was to renovate, repair and use the buildings if possible.
However, further analysis showed the buildings needed extensive repairs to save them and the costs to do those repairs were quite high. The recommendation was to demolish and rebuild a new structure.
But the buildings were all listed on the National Historic Register as a protection to historic buildings. After discussions with the register, it was determined that the buildings didn’t have a great historic impact and could be torn down.
In August 2018, the three buildings were removed to make way for new construction. The new design for the building was considered to be great, but construction would take a considerable amount of money, over $1,000,000.
During the search for funding, former WA alumni John Lee came forward with the majority of the money needed. Lee graduated from WA in 1958, then attended Arizona State where he majored in engineering. He has since become a major part of a large environmental engineering company.
Lee wanted to give back to Wasatch Academy with this donation because his engineering foundation was developed while attending classes at the academy. Because of Lee’s donation, construction of the building is now complete.
Of course, with a new facility becoming available there was a need to find someone to oversee its use. Dr. Zeb Engberg was selected last April to become the new director and has now officially stepped into this new role. Engberg has taught at WA for some time and served as the Math Department Co-Chair.
As the new director of technology and engineering for WA, Engberg is bringing his enthusiasm for discovery to his new role. “While I will always love mathematics, I am excited to bring my passion for creation and problem-solving into a new realm. In high school mathematics, the authentic opportunity to construct new ideas can feel contrived and counterproductive. In engineering, the act of construction happens on the first day.”
“I have seen the power of design thinking awaken previously disinterested students,” he says, “I hope to expose more students to the engineering design process through our engineering, robotics, and rocketry classes and through our inviting and experimental maker space.”
It should be noted that more students are being exposed to engineering through the classes now available at WA. According to Head of School Joseph Loftin, all of the schools engineering classes are full.
Those course classes may include all of the following: technology, digital audio, Adobe Photoshop/Flash, digital video, 3D animation, Adobe Illustrator/After Effects, 3D design/video game design, yearbook, industrial fabrication, robotics, rocketry, and various levels of computer science.
Self-motivated students will be given the autonomy to take their ideas and run with them. Students who require significant structure and scaffolding will be mentored as they seek authentic learning experiences and build the confidence to dream bigger.
The new engineering center is designed as a large industrial work space which has a modular layout and open by design. It includes state-of-the-art woodworking shop and maker space. Specific high-tech equipment including a laser cutter, a 3D printer, and a welders will also be available for student use.
By having access to these sophisticated machines students may use them to bring their intricate student designs to fruition. It is hoped the machinery will inspire and empower the students to tinker and create.
The new building is a welcome addition to the Wasatch Academy Campus and the city of Mt. Pleasant.