Davilla Brings Engineering into High School Classroom

Dustin Davilla Classroom


(A photo from the Feb. 9, 2018, issue of the Clinton Daily News shows two of Dustin Davilla's engineering students testing towers on a "quake shaker" table. Photo credit: Robert S. Bryan, Clinton Daily News)

Many school districts strive to develop STEM-Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics-curriculum. Yet out of these four areas, the least developed in many cases is the vowel to this acronym-Engineering. At Clinton (Okla.) High School, tribal member Dustin Davilla works to make sure that his students have an understanding of this field.


Through a partnership with the University of Texas, Davilla teaches a course known as "Engineering Your World." With the curriculum provided by the university, students learn about a wide range of engineering disciplines such as chemical, structural, computer and systems engineering.


"It actually introduces juniors to the world of engineering, which I think is a huge benefit to the students," Davilla said.


A 2004 graduate of Anadarko (Okla.) High School, Davilla enlisted in the U.S. Navy following graduation, where he served as a sonar technician. After his service, Davilla received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Southwestern Oklahoma State University, graduating in May 2017. During his time there, he discovered his interest in teaching through tutoring and working as a chemistry lab teaching assistant.


Dustin Graduation Pic



Dustin Davilla upon receiving his bachelor's degree at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. (Photo provided by Owassa Foreman Davilla)

"I found that I actually liked teaching and helping out the students when they were struggling," Davilla said. "What really got me is when you see that 'click' when they finally understood something that they were struggling with-that lightbulb goes off in their head. You can see that. It makes you feel good as a person, being able to help someone else out."


Davilla was notified about the Engineering Your World program while participating in a chemistry research study this past summer in Kingston upon Hull, England. He received an email that a teacher was leaving Clinton High School, and that he needed to attend a two-week training in order to be qualified for the course.


"At first, it was kind of intimidating, because I've never had an engineering course in my life," Davilla said. "As soon as I got there, they assured us that we really didn't need to have an engineering background. Once we actually started class, I realized you don't need an engineering background. You just need strong math-just high school math."


Davilla said that the primary math that his 22 students for this class needed was Algebra I, with Geometry and Algebra II for additional background.


"The course was mainly how to teach us to teach the class," Davilla said about when he trained for the course. "We take the class so that we know what our students are going to do. There were so many main units that we learned.


"I would say that the overall thing that students are going to get out of this," Davilla continued, "besides the introduction to engineering-is just the way that engineers think. There's a whole process that they go through when they make decisions on what to build and how they're going to build it."


Some of the lessons include building towers to be tested on a "quake shaker" table, adding music to computers, the use of aerial photography and also what is known as "reverse technology"-taking an item apart to see how it functions. For this lesson, the students used flashlights.


In addition to teaching the engineering class, Davilla also teaches biology and advanced placement chemistry. He said that science and mathematics is essential due to today's growing technological world.


"Going into just about any field today, you need to have a really good background, especially in math being the universal language," Davilla said. "You really can't do much science without knowing math. It is extremely important to learn math. Without science, we wouldn't have advances in technology, advances in medicine and so on. I'd say both are really important to keeping this society we've created of technology."


In addition, Davilla emphasized the need for adults to make sure that children stay engaged in science and mathematics due to a naturally inquisitive nature.


"We're all natural-born scientists, if you think about it," he said. "We're all very curious and want to know how things work and why they do the things they do. One of the favorite questions of a three-year old or a four-year old is 'why?' repeatedly. Keeping them interested is the job for us adults. They're already natural-born scientists. They're already born asking the right questions."


Davilla is the son of Daniel Davilla and Owassa Foreman Davilla. He is the grandson of Shirley and the late Raymond Davilla, Sr.; grandson of the late Patty Botone Kaubin and Charles Kaubin; and grandson of the late Bill Foreman. In addition to his Wichita enrollment, Davilla is also of Kiowa, Sac and Fox, Oneida, Kickapoo and Blackfeet descent.