Pre-Engineering Certificate


The Mission of the Pre-Engineering Certificate Program 

The mission of the Pre-Engineering Certificate program is to provide to students through direct experience, individual and team-based projects, and rigorous academic study, an understanding of the nature of engineering as well as the specific subject matter they will need to study engineering at the university level.

The Process

Students can apply for the Pre-Engineering Certificate Program as early as the second semester of their freshman year and as late as the second semester of their sophomore year. Exceptions can be made for students who have already fulfilled, or will fulfill, the majority basic requirements by the conclusion of their junior year. Students may begin taking coursework towards earning Pre-Engineering Certificate as soon as they enter the Upper School.
Throughout their time in the Upper School, students enrolled in the Pre-Engineering Certificate will undertake specific coursework requirements (listed below), complete an individual engineering experience of their choosing, and contribute to a team-based engineering challenge. There are multiple facets for completing both the individual and team-based components so that candidates can tailor their experiences to their own personal interests within the broader field of engineering.
During the second semester of their senior year, Pre-Engineering Certificate candidates complete a capstone project in which they are paired with a faculty advisor as well as seek expertise of a practicing or retired engineer. Candidates will identify an area of interest and select a specific challenge that exists within this identified concentration. Thus, by the end of the Pre-Engineering Certificate experience, each successful candidate will have researched, designed, fabricated, and presented an authentic engineering solution to a real-world problem.

Program Components

The requirements for Highland's Pre-Engineering certificate program are broken down in the expanding boxes below.

List of 5 items.

  • Coursework

    • 4.0 Credits Math (at least through Differential Calculus, AP recommended)
    • 5.0 Credits Science (must include Introduction to Engineering, Engineering Capstone, at least 1 each of biology, chemistry, and physics, at least 2 of which are at the Honors level and one of which is an AP)
    • 1.0 Credit Computer Programming
  • Team-Based Engineering Project

    Students need to gain meaningful experience working as a part of a team to produce a product. Some team-based options for candidates to consider include:
    • Participation in the Highland Robotics program as a member of the build team contributing at least 10 hours per week
    • Participation in the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) Summer Academy
    • Highland’s Engineering Design course, when offered (subject to enrollment numbers)
    Other team-based projects may be considered by request but are subject to pre-approval by the Pre-Engineering faculty committee.
  • Individual Engineering Experience

    Students must participate in an individual engineering experience separate from the team-based project.  It is very much encouraged that this experience be through participation in one of the many summer programs hosted at engineering schools throughout the country as either a rising junior or senior.  The purpose of this experience is to further clarify what engineering entails and allow participants to preview implications of choosing an engineering major in college. Some individual experiences to consider include:

    • Johns Hopkins Engineering Innovation
    • IEEE TryEngineering Summer Institute
    • MITES (MIT program for minorities)
    • SAMS at Carnegie Mellon
    • WYSE through U of Illinois Urbana Champaign
    • Discovering Engineering at Univ of Maryland
    • iD Tech at University of Virginia
    • Smith Summer Science and Engineering Program (for girls, Smith College)
    • CURIE Academy at Cornell Engineering (for girls, Cornell University)
    • LEAD Summer Engineering Institute 
    • Piedmont Virginia PVCC Summer Dual Enrollment Engineering Programs
    • Computer programming language courses, such as those offered through EdX, beyond the 1.0 credit requirement for the certificate
    • Independent Study in SolidWorks through Highland
    • Classroom Internship through Highland and with approval from Pre-Engineering Faculty Committee
    The above list is not exhaustive, and should not be considered complete. Other individual projects may be considered by request but are subject to pre-approval by the Pre-Engineering faculty committee.
  • Senior Capstone Project

    As a culmination of the engineering experience at Highland, students will each present a capstone project which will serve as an extension of their senior project. There are several dozen specialties within the overall field of engineering. As such, the capstone project affords Pre-Engineering Certificate participants the opportunity to forge an in-depth experience in a discipline of particular interest within engineering, while also demonstrating the breadth of skills and practices acquired throughout his or her Highland career.

    Through work with both an assigned faculty advisor and a student-solicited professional mentor, students work under the guidance and expertise of knowledgeable adults who serve to offer feedback on the project throughout the process. At the conclusion of the Capstone course, Pre-Engineering students present their Capstone Projects to their peers, mentors, and Highland Faculty for final evaluation. Because the capstone project is an extension of the senior project, it is essential that it also satisfy all of the requirements of the Senior project.  These include:

    • Use of a sponsor to ensure the student has access to expertise in the field of engineering most utilized in the project. The sponsor may not be a direct family member and preferably would be someone not directly employed by Highland.  The faculty advisor will act as the senior advisor and be responsible for the duties of a senior advisor as laid out in the Highland School Senior Project Program.
    • Completion of an electronic journal detailing the progress of the project, and reflecting upon the many challenges which are overcome along the way.
    • Complete a minimum of 60 hours of work on the project.  In truth, the project should require far more than 60 hours.
    • Completion of all deadline requirements, including initial proposal draft through final presentation, as determined by the Highland School Senior Project Program.
    Students will be expected to take the Engineering Capstone course during the spring semester of their Senior year so as to have additional time to complete their capstone projects.
  • Timeline

    The earlier any student chooses to participate in the Pre-Engineering Certificate Program, the more they can expect to get out of the program. This being said, a student will not be required to declare an interest in the certificate until the end of their junior year, assuming that they are already on track to fulfill the minimum requisite course requirements. Ideally, students would be making the decision to participate prior to the start of their junior year as this will afford increased flexibility in scheduling required course electives, particularly Introduction to Engineering and computer programming. Additionally,  the increased time allows students to more fully participate in and increases the number of options available while planning for both the team and individual engineering experiences.

    All senior participants are required to take the Engineering Capstone course in the spring semester of their senior year.
  • Questions? Please contact Mrs. Elisabeth Carver, Director of Highland's Pre-Engineering Certificate Program at


Highland School is a co-ed independent Pre-K2 to Grade 12 day school located in Warrenton, Virginia.