Pre-Engineering Certificate


“The Pre-Engineering Certificate encourages students to see the world beyond Highland.” DAVID ROBERTSON, PRE-ENGINEERING CERTIFICATE CO-CREATOR
Highland's new Pre-Engineering Certificate is offered for Upper School students who are interested in preparing themselves to study engineering in college.

Mission of the Pre-Engineering Certificate Program 

The mission of this new certificate program is to provide to students, through direct experience, projects, and academic study, an understanding of the nature of engineering as well as the specific academic preparation they will need to study engineering at the university level. The Pre-Engineering Capstone Senior Project affords students the opportunity to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the engineering design process or a particular interest in an engineering field. The Pre-Engineering Program allows students to earn a certificate in recognition of their achievement.

Step 1: Choose an Advisor

Choose an advisor from the faculty of either the Mathematics or Science Departments.  This can be done as early as the end of your Freshman year, or as late as March of Sophomore year. You and your advisor will map out your coursework to be sure you will have satisfied the requirements; the two of you will also work to find extra-curricular activities that you can participate in as a part of the team-based and individual engineering experiences.

Step 2: Identify Topic for Capstone Project

With your advisor, identify and develop a topic or area of interest for your capstone project. Write up a detailed proposal in which you explain your reasons for making your choice, what you intend to achieve by engaging with this topic, how you will accomplish your goals related to this topic, and what your capstone project will include.  Have a parent or guardian sign your proposal so he or she is aware of your commitment.  Submit your proposal to your advisor, who will then present the proposal on your behalf to the committee for approval.  This can be done before as soon as an advisor has been selected but must be done prior to completion of Junior year.

Step 3: Present Your Capstone Project

You will present your capstone project during senior project presentations on the last day of school.

Essentials of Engineering

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
    • 0.5 Beginning Sculpture or CAD 1 recommended but not required
  • Team-Based Engineering Project

    Students need to gain meaningful experience working as a part of a team to produce a product. Participation in the Robotics program would satisfy the requirement provided that participation is as a member of the build team. Participation in the VASTS Summer Academy would satisfy the requirement as well. Otherwise, completing the Engineering Design course at Highland would also satisfy the team requirement.
  • 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 is 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.
    Summer Program options to consider:
    • Johns Hopkins Engineering Innovation
    • MITES (MIT program for minorities)
    • SAMS at Carnegie Mellon
    • WYSE through U of Illinois Urbana Champaign
    • Discovering Engineering at Univ of Maryland
    • ITE 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 at University of Virginia (Scholarships available)
    • Piedmont Virginia PVCC Summer Dual Enrollment Engineering Programs
    • Computer programming language courses (such as those offered through EdX, cost: $50.00 for certificate of verification) beyond what is offered at Highland
    The above list is not exhaustive, and shouldn’t be considered complete.  While some programs have quite a high cost associated with them, and therefore would not be suitable for some Highland Pre-Engineering students, we have endeavored to provide a list that includes programs with minimal costs and/or scholarships available. 
  • Senior Capstone Project

    As a culmination of the engineering experience at Highland, students will present a capstone project that will serve as their senior project. There are over two dozen specialties within the overall field of engineering. The capstone project affords Pre-Engineering Certificate participants the opportunity to forge an in-depth experience in a field of particular interest within engineering, while also demonstrating the breadth of skills and practices acquired throughout his or her Highland career.  Students will choose from a set of four or five options available (to be determined), that take advantage of faculty advisors currently present on campus. Pre-Engineering students will present their capstone project to their peers and Highland faculty in lieu of the Senior Project presented by other members of the graduating class.  As such, it is essential that the capstone project satisfy all of the requirements of the Senior project.  These include:
    • Use of a sponsor to ensure student has access to [1] 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 that 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 Engineering Capstone during the spring semester of their Senior year 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 it.  That being said, a student will not be required to declare an interest in the certificate and obtain an advisor until the end of their sophomore year.  This is assuming they are already on course to fulfill the minimum requisite course requirements and summer program participation.  All senior participants are required to take Engineering Capstone the spring semester of their senior year. 
    Ideally students would be making the decision to participate prior to their sophomore year.  While certainly not required, many students will prefer the flexibility this affords when determining when to take the required course electives, particularly Introduction to Engineering and the computer programming course. 
  • 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.