Orangewood’s engineering teacher keeps it real

By NATHANIEL JOHNSON and JOSH BENNECKE

TRISTAN HOLSOMBACH contributed to this article

Matthew Stewart is a fifth year engineering teacher at Orangewood High School with a goal to ”help as many students as possible…to achieve things beyond what they believe they are capable of.”

As a teacher in the Career Technical Education program, Stewart  likes seeing his students improve and realize that they can understand engineering.

“In Mr. Stewarts we are always working on something that is fun and creative,” says Orangewood senior Cody Thorpe, “From battlebots to CO2 cars, there is never a dull moment inside the class.”

“My favorite project in the class so far has been building battle bots,” says Thorpe, “This was my favorite project because we got full responsibility over our bots. Everyone’s bot was unique and had its own mechanism to destroy other students’ battle bots.”

Orangewood junior Ronnie Garcia says, “Stewarts my all time favorite bald teacher.”

Stewart had many careers before becoming a teacher.

“I started as a carpenter out of high school, transitioned into an operating engineer, then a surveyor, then moved into the office setting of a large civil engineering company,” says Stewart. 

“From there I started as a project engineer and moved into estimating and finally a general superintendent.  I then moved into ICT and worked as an IT director for a medium sized clinical laboratory consulting firm.” 

Stewart says he left that position in 2016. He started teaching at Orangewood in 2017 as a long-term sub for Colton-Redlands-Yucaipa Regional Occupational Program and, Stewart says, “never left.”

Stewart also keeps two small businesses running in his spare time from being a full-time teacher.

Looking back at his younger years, Stewart describes his teenage-self as “a hot mess.” 

In high school, Stewart says he was saved by his football coach. His coach taught him to give 100% at everything that he did. 

“My brother and I were saved by our high school football coach,” says Stewart. “Without coach P,  my life would be much different.  He taught us to give 100% at anything and everything we do.  He held us to high standards and I can’t thank him enough for doing that.”

Stewart says that his advice to his teenage-self would be, “Change nothing, it’s worked out alright.”

Orangewood High School teacher Matthew Stewart instructs Engineering I students, seniors Justin Hernandez, Josh Bennecke and Cayden Van Winkle, on how to construct a box to hold transmitters for battle bots. (TRISTIN HOLLENBACH/Ethic News photo)

Citrus Valley High School’s engineering class visited Orangewood on Dec.7 to do a shared activity racing CO2 cars.

After Citrus Valley arrived, a large table was set up, one the length of the multi purpose room, the dragsters were pulled out and they were raced.

Stewart had a positive reaction about the event with Citrus Valley, saying it was “awesome”

He proceeded to mention about how Orangewood took eight of the top ten positions and four of the top five against Citrus Valley.

According to Stewart, Citrus Valley teacher Brian Bartlett  actually asked how Orangewood did it.

Though Orangewood stood out, the top two positions of the two fastest dragsters were that of Orangewood seniors Nicholas Boiarski and Jeremiah Lopez.

Stewart had no opinion on the rules as they are by the national committee of the specific activity.

Stewart’s students also participate in the annual Rube Goldberg competition, and have won at the national level.

Youtube viewers can watch the final product of Orangewood High School student’s winning 2022 Rube Goldberg entry. Engineering teacher Matthew Stewart guides students in this project. The caption to the youtube video reads: “Our Rube Goldberg Machine started life as 8 separate projects and then was turned into one giant 110 step machine. As time went on, we had to cut a few steps out due to parts breaking or the likelihood of the step not working was too great. We ended up with 98 steps and opening our Lorax book after we slid it two feet with a simple dowel pulley system and a repurposed Ryobi drill. We managed to get the book to strike two household interrupter switches wired to DC batteries. One triggered a linear actuator, and the other triggered a geared motor for small robotics to pick up the slack fishing line. We spent 6 weeks on the project and set it up roughly 300 times. We got only 5 complete runs with no touches, and a dozen more with one or two touches. We believed we had a perfect video until Mr. Stewart’s phone had reached its storage limit. Luckily, we had another camera and were able to save a little of the run on the phone. Our theme was The Lorax because promoting literacy was a goal of the contest this year. We all thought about what started us reading and Dr. Seuss came up many times. Then we decided to make it a little ironic because our machine is made mostly of wooden parts. We used robotics systems, remote control systems, a catapult, a Nerf dart gun, our compressed air rocket launcher, many motors and switches, CNC routed parts, 3D printed parts, magnets, funnels, string, wire, tubing, LED lighting, hinges, and many types and sizes of balls. We hope you enjoy our entry and can’t wait to see everyone’s submissions!”

According to Stewart, it is different every year and the objective is to build a contraption with random materials provided to get some task done. Prior to the main competition, the event has mini games where you can win materials or tools to aid you in the competition.

In each competition there are eight highschools, eight middle schools, and eight elementary schools. 

With the provided materials the competitors get six hours with only direction from the teachers chaperoning, no physical intervention even with power tools.

The Rube Goldberg Competition is at Rialto High School this school year on Feb. 4. 

Stewart has hobbies outside of school like fly fishing, riding off-road motorcycles and learning “something new as often as possible.” 

As for the most challenging part of teaching, “this is the easiest, most fun job I have ever had,” says Stewart.

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