Ed Hernandez left a boring, unfulfilling, and well-paying job to become a high school science teacher. He teaches his students to use SOLIDWORKS and be self-sufficient, and his program at Tustin High school has had some major success stories. Check out Part One and Part Two of Ed’s story.
A group of Ed Hernandez’s students came to him and said, “Mr. Hernandez, we need a vending machine for the class.”
Ed said, “Okay. Make one.”
So they did.
The students had a prototype working after three weeks, and had a real, working vending machine in seven months. They used SOLIDWORKS for 3D modeling, they 3D printed parts, ordered others (like the dollar bill acceptor) online. CNC, programming, electronics, the students used everything they’d learned during their time at T-Tech. The vending machine ended up being this group’s senior capstone project. And, in Ed’s words, it came out pretty good.
“I’ve learned over the years that students will surprise you in positive ways, and this was one of them,” he said. “That’s what I’m into. If it doesn’t exist, now that I’ve got the tool and equipment and skills, can I make it? Or can I at least try? That’s the mindset I’m looking to give my students. ‘Hey, we’ve been teaching students to hammer for 12 years, it is about time we teach them to make something.’”
His students’ projects go beyond needing a way to obtain classroom snacks. T-Tech students have created motorized walkers, guitars, electric cars, locking skateboard racks, a working prosthetic hand for a student, and more. The year they qualified for Lemelson-MIT’s EurekaFest, his students researched a problem, then designed, and created a machine that could remove bubble gum from concrete.
“Everything about it was modeled in SOLIDWORKS,” Ed said. All projects start as ideas, and all of Ed’s students’ projects start in SOLIDWORKS. For the gum removal machine, they started with basic parts and assemblies, and ended up using the software to create photo realistic renderings and posters. It’s the same for the prosthetic hand. Juniors in Ed’s class modeled the hand in SOLIDWORKS, 3D printed it, and made it work for a 7th grader who needed it.
Ed practices what he preaches. He uses SOLIDWORKS in his personal life as well as with his students, and his personal projects have the added benefit of becoming teachable moments for his kids.
“One of the things I like to show my students is how I used SOLIDWORKS for my kitchen remodel,” he said. When his house was being remodeled, Ed wanted to see what the finished product was going to look like. Anyone who’s had major work done on their home knows it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when all your walls are torn down and your floors are ripped up. So Ed took matters into his own hands and modeled a good portion of his home in SOLIDWORKS. “I made all the cabinets and appliances, everything in SOLIDWORKS,” he recalled. Ed was able to show the model to his wife and collaborate with her over how the finished remodel should look.
“I use SOLIDWORKS to make all kinds of gizmos and things for myself,” Ed said. “It’s a tool for building whatever little project I’ve got in mind. It’s my go-to tool.” And he has classes upon classes of students using it as their go-to tool as well.
Ed’s life showcases an intense relationship with education and engineering. Since he is a teacher, my final question for Ed was what he hoped people could learn from his story.
“Number one, for anyone who’s older than 40: the high school experience of today is significantly different than the high school experience they might have had,” he said. “I love to show off the skill sets of my students. Traditionally, older people think you would have only enough skills as a high schooler to work at a fast food restaurant, which was true when I was in high school. It is way different now.”
He continued, “I also want people to realize that we are trying to steer our youngsters into a more technical mindset, because we’ve really become a nation of consumers, not so much a nation of makers, doers, and designers. It makes it tough when you can’t make or fix your own things and you have to go out and buy, or contract everything out.”
Immigrating to the US as a child is hard. So is getting through high school and college without knowing what you’re doing. Making a major career change is hard. Working with teenagers is hard. Building the workforce of tomorrow is staggering. But Ed has managed to overcome a bounty of obstacles and life changes to become the type of person who advocates for the abilities of young people and help them grow. And who knows what changes will manifest in the future.
Thank you to Ed Hernandez for taking the time to talk to me for this series. All videos and images are taken with permission.