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Spotlight on Justin Randall, RHS Math/Engineering Teacher

Rhinebeck High School Math and Engineering teacher Justin Randall is from Dolgeville in upstate New York. He completed his undergraduate degree at SUNY Oswego and received his Master’s degree from Utica College. Originally drawn to Rhinebeck because his wife grew up in the area, 2016-2017 is Mr. Randall’s 4th year teaching in Rhinebeck.

Justin Randall

When did you first get interested in math and engineering, what sparked your interest, and what kinds of things did you do in pursuit of your interest?
I first became interested in math and engineering in high school. A few of the teachers that I had sparked my interest in the mathematics field. While in college I worked on a bridge construction crew in the summer time, which allowed me to get experience reading plans and looking at the mathematics that go into the design and build of the projects.

Your Principles of Engineering class seems to be attaining rock-star status judging by enrollment. What is the secret of your success?
I think the secret to the success of the class is getting more information out to the students about the class. The first year we only had 6 students because not many students knew about the class. Throughout the year I had students take projects up to show their peers in the cafeteria and also invited teachers, students, and community members into the class to see the students’ work. Once other students started to hear and see about the projects the students were working on, the class started to grow.

How would you describe the kids enrolling in this class? Already interested in engineering, or more in exploratory mode?
The students enrolling in the course seems to be a mix of students interested in engineering and also exploring what engineering means. The course is a survey course of multiple engineering fields, so it does allow students to explore some interests.

What can kids do after taking your class if they are hooked on the subject?
As of now the high school only offers 2 engineering courses. If the students took the design engineering course there is not a course they can take after the Principles of Engineering course. If they have not taken the design course, that is an option.

Engineering has long been one of those fields dominated by males, yet your class seem to draw a large number of female students. Would you attribute this to a natural breaking down of barriers, or something else?
From speaking with the students in the course, I feel many of the female students had an interest in the engineering field before coming into the course. I hope that this is a natural breaking down of barriers and that the enrollment of female students in the course continues to grow.

What hopes or goals do you have for engineering education in the future?
I hope that the enrollment and interest in the course remains high and possibly leads to more engineering courses being offered. Through Project Lead the Way there are specialized areas of concentration, but that also leads to some challenges in a smaller school district. For now, my goal is to keep interest up throughout the entire population of the high school and try to help students determine if the engineering field is something they are interested in.

What do you do when you aren’t teaching?
When I am not teaching I enjoy coaching football and track and field. I also enjoy spending time with my family.