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By Margaret Schlachter

Each day, the John W. and Elizabeth Lee Engineering Arts building is full of life and exploration. 

Students enter space to create and build everything from robots and rockets to end tables and electronics. 

The possibilities are endless. 

Each year, students use the space to make everything from 3D-printed pieces for a game to building a sidecar for a motorcycle to creating a rocket in the shape of the famous Tradis from Dr. Who. Two students who have embraced and gone above and beyond in their engineering exploration are Brian Reagan ’22 and Stella von Peterffy-Rolff ’22. Both have inspired their classmates and faculty.

Brian Reagan ’22

Brian, a native of Salt Lake City, Utah, was a student of Wasatch Academy for four years, graduating in the spring of 2022. While he was a student, he was fortunate to be part of the evolution of the engineering arts program. His interest in engineering inspired him to take two robotics courses, a computer science course, and an industrial fabrication class. However, these courses were not enough for Brian. When the new after-school activity period was announced for the 2021-2022 school year, Brian saw an opportunity to share an aspect of the engineering space he loved: 3D printing. In the fall of 2021, as head of one of the student-led activity classes, Brian taught his classmates and some faculty members how to maintain and operate the 3D printers in the engineering building. 

He felt compelled to lead this activity period, sharing his passion for these machines and showing his classmates the printer’s endless opportunities. The activity period was a smashing success and was enjoyed by all.

 Brian’s favorite project was a multi-year robotics honors project called “Turret,” a scale replica of the machine from the video game Portal 2. 

This project involved digitally modeling the device using Fusion360 software, then creating the physical unit through 3D-printed parts and building and programming a Raspberry Pi computer using Python computer programming language and LED lights. He has spent over 400 hours working on this project. Brian’s enthusiasm for engineering and robotics in particular is infectious as he speaks about the Turret. 

While the project still has more hours to go before it is complete, Brian credited the faculty and facilities at Wasatch Academy for allowing him to even think of tackling such a complex project. The Turret is a culmination of everything Brian has learned, thanks to the guidance of his teachers at the school.

When asked what he sees for the engineering arts program in the future, he expressed his hope that more advanced classes are offered for students who want to go above and beyond the standard offerings. He also hopes to see more female students get inspired to take engineering classes and to participate in all the opportunities in the building. Finally, he hopes the program will encourage students to take on large projects like the one he’s been working on.

Brian truly embraced his time at Wasatch Academy and inspired his classmates and faculty with what can be accomplished in the engineering arts program. Brian will be studying aerospace engineering at Purdue University in the fall of 2022, bringing the tools and knowledge to succeed in designing the machines and vehicles that will be hurtling into outer space. Knowing Brian, he will make it happen.

Stella von Peterffy-Rolff ’22

A one-year student from Cologne, Germany, Stella seized every opportunity to use the Engineering Arts Building, whether it was making something at the 3D printer or working on her latest rocket.

During her time at Wasatch Academy, she took robotics, rocketry, and industrial fabrication classes. Stella’s biggest achievement, however, was building a scale model of the Wasatch Academy campus using design software and 3D printers. As part of this project, she created an exact replica of each building on campus, down to the porches and other fine details. 

She often spent hours in the design process. 

Each building took between ten to twenty hours to print on the 3D printer. 

Once printed, each building was pasted onto a board representing the entire campus. While the project was not finished during her time at the school, she enlisted friends to carry on for her and hopefully complete it by the end of the 2022-2023 school year.

Stella was also a standout student in rocketry, building multiple rockets, including a complex three-stage rocket. She is the first student to make a three-stage rocket since the course was first offered.

However, one of the most significant projects Stella worked on this year was not in class but was something that benefitted many alumni and guests. Stella, aided by faculty member Mr. Magaluk, created over 200 wooden name tags for alumni and guests for the event to celebrate Joseph Loftin’s leadership and for Founder’s Day. 

She helped create a template in Adobe Illustrator, then typed in all the names of the guests. After printing name tags in batches of fourteen on the laser cutter, she used the industrial fabrication space to sand each tag with a palm sander. 

The final step was to alphabetize the tags and adhere magnet backing to each one. Stella said, “I learned to prepare and work precisely with the laser cutter and sander. It was a lot of fun!” Stella’s hard work paid off as the name tags were a wonderful keepsake for all who attended. Many guests remarked how much they loved the name tags and were impressed that a student created them. They were such a hit that Stella and Mr. Magaluk expanded the project to make name tags for faculty and staff at school.

Stella hopes the school continues to offer more engineering courses in the future and that more students have the opportunity to use the fabulous space on campus. She also hopes that more powerful 3D printers can be purchased to create more extensive and complex products. Stella will take some of the processes and analytical skills learned at Wasatch Academy into the future as she prepares to become a medical doctor. 

As she headed back to Germany to get a second high school diploma, she left with memories of the school river trip and a community that, she said, “is always helpful and tries to help you in the best way to achieve all your goals. I am so grateful for my time at Wasatch Academy.”

For many students, the John W. and Elizabeth Lee Engineering Building is an impactful part of their experience at Wasatch Academy. 

The program looks forward to offering students an abundance of hands-on experiences for years to come.


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Please contact our admissions team if you have any questions or would like to apply.