CHS Sigma Wiki

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Sigma at Charlottesville High School is more than STEM. It is a powerful and unprecedented approach to education which leverages the latest technologies in providing enriching and meaningful educational experiences for students across all disciplines. There are no "Sigma students" at CHS; all students and teachers enjoy the benefits of the Sigma Lab resources, enabling them to turn their ideas into reality.

If you're looking for BACON, click here. Or for Dr. Shields' class website, click here.

Sigma Lab

Main article: Sigma Lab
The Sigma Lab

Designed by BACON members, Dr. Shields, and Moseley architects, the Sigma Lab is the embodiment of the creative process. There are collaborative spaces with whiteboards and meeting tables. Adjacent to those is a computer lab for design and fabrication facilities, including 3D printers, a CNC machine, and a laser cutter. There is also a Mechatronics room, dedicated to adding the smarts (microcontrollers, electronics, programming, etc.) to designs. The space is a tool for all students and teachers at CHS to turn their ideas, no matter how crazy, into reality.

The Name

Sigma, the 18th letter in the Greek alphabet, is used in practically every field of science, engineering, and math. In statistics, it means standard deviation and is the symbol used to report statistical confidence. In physics it is used to denote stress, surface charge density, and electrical conductivity. And it is used to signify the Stefan–Boltzmann constant. Particle physicists study the sigma baryon. In chemistry, sigma bonds are the strongest type of covalent bonds and in biology, sigma receptors are an important class of molecule. But perhaps most significantly, upper case sigma (Σ) is the summation operator. It is used to denote many parts coming together to create a whole. It is used to symbolize the cumulative effect of many disparate influences. In one letter, it can signify the sum an an infinite number of smaller contributions. So, the Sigma Lab is the place at CHS where students from infinitely diverse backgrounds work together toward common goals. It is a place where students work on projects that represent the culmination of years of education, where they bring their knowledge of math, history, language, and science to bear on common endeavors. Note: Randall and Sam should probably get some credit for the name.

Sigma Courses

The Sigma Course sequence

Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, Charlottesville High School offers courses specifically designed to promote technical literacy, engineering skills, problem solving proficiency, and group cooperation. Each of these courses, dubbed Sigma Courses, will take advantage of the new facilities at CHS and will introduce students to many aspects of the modern professional world, including computer programming, computer-aided design, and advanced manufacturing. The courses are also designed to meet the diverse needs of the CHS student body. Students interested in gaining skills and experiences to give them a leg up as they enter the workforce as well as students looking for opportunities to set them apart when applying to the country’s top ranked science and engineering universities benefit from these courses.

Engineering 1

Engineering 1 is a CTE course, available to anyone.  No grade-level restrictions or pre-requisites.  This course roughly follows CTE course 8450, which is also taught at Buford Middle School.  The course provides students with an introduction to the engineering discipline, with a focus on project-based problem solving and critical thinking.  Through individual and group projects, students will be introduced to computer programming, CAD, computational software, electronics, and advanced manufacturing techniques.  There will also be a focus on professionalism, attention to detail, and craftsmanship.  While there are no entry requirements for this course, students signing up for it should be aware that success in the course will require a fair amount of self-direction and discipline.  Dr. Shields has high standards when it comes to finished products.  He also has very little tolerance for misuse of equipment.

Engineering 2

Engineering 2 is a CTE course, available to students who were successful in Engineering 1, either at Buford Middle School or at CHS.  Some students with significant programming, CAD, and electronics experience may place directly into this course. Engineering 2 roughly follows CTE course 8451.  The course builds on the skills and knowledge from Engineering 1, developing mastery in engineering skills in order to complete and document complex engineering challenges.

Engineering 3

Engineering 3 is a dual enrollment class with Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC). Students in Engineering 3 will also receive credit for EGR 120, Introduction to Engineering.  Individual and group projects will require students to gain basic mastery of computer programming, CAD, computational software, electronics, and advanced manufacturing techniques.  There will also be a focus on professionalism, attention to detail, and craftsmanship.  Students will be engaged in a wide range of independent projects of their own design.  Some skills and understandings will be taught class-wide, but students will also be responsible for a fair amount of independent research.  By the end of the year, students will complete products ready to be presented publicly as well published online.

Engineering 4

Engineering 4 is a dual enrollment class with Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC). Students in Engineering 4 will also receive credit for EGR 115, Engineering Graphics.  Individual and group projects will require students to gain basic mastery of computer programming, CAD, computational software, electronics, and advanced manufacturing techniques.  There will also be a focus on professionalism, attention to detail, and craftsmanship.  Students will be engaged in a wide range of independent projects of their own design.  Some skills and understandings will be taught class-wide, but students will also be responsible for a fair amount of independent research.  By the end of the year, students will complete products ready to be presented publicly as well published online.

Engineering Capstone

Engineering Capstone is the final year in our five-year engineering sequence at CHS. Students begin the year by writing a proposal for a year-long independent project aimed at showcasing the engineering skills they have learned in Engineering 1 through Engineering 4 as well as their methodology for learning new skills. These year-long projects are also connected to their community and are shared online and presented to relevant stakeholders.

Hall of Fame

Our first printed parts!

Every day, CHS students use the Sigma Lab resources to do amazing, innovative, and creative things. To the right you can see our first printed parts! Click here for an example, or click here for more.

Additional Resources

Acknowledgments

The Sigma program at CHS, and the Sigma Lab in particular, would not have happened without the generous inspiration and support and of many, many people. Here are just a few.

  • City of Charlottesville
  • Charlottesville City Schools
  • Dr. Rosa Atkins
  • Tim Breitenbach
  • Billy Riggs
  • Mike Mollica
  • James Henderson
  • Jeff Faust
  • The Hon. Albert V. Bryan, Jr.
  • Sonjia Smith
  • Aubrey Watts
  • Dr. Thomas Taylor
  • Libbey Kitten
  • Jill Dahl
  • Dr. Matthew W. Shields
  • Hossein Haj-Hariri
  • Gavin Garner
  • Dwight Dart
  • Commonwealth Center For Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM)
  • Battelle
  • GE Intelligent Platforms
  • Mosley Architects
  • Lizzie Hylton
  • Dania Jazouli
  • Jessie Press-Williams
  • Ellie Kayton
  • Ryan Bouabid
  • Pearl Risberg
  • The Black Knight Coffee Shop

Awards

  • Virginia Education Facility Planners Conference Special Recognition Award 2014
  • Council of Educational Facility Planners International Southeast Region Conference Adaptive Reuse-Best Design Award