Hiring good high-school engineering teachers is harder than ever these days, but David Mangus is an outlier.
After studying biology and engineering and unable to land a job in biology, he sold insurance for 11 years. But a 2002 neck injury prompted Mangus, 54, to fulfill a lifelong dream by gaining a teaching certificate. “I thought, I can sit at home with a sore neck or I can sit in classes,” he says.
Mangus teaches at the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology in Hartford, Conn., and runs its Nepal Project, which empowers students to design and build hybrid wind and solar generators for Himalayan villages. Connecticut philanthropist-traveler Peter Werth launched it after seeing Nepal’s need for power, with support from the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program and Connecticut Business and Industry Association.
The project is also supported by NAF, a national network of education, business, and community leaders working to prepare high school students from “high need communities” for college and beyond. United Technologies Corp. also serves as the school’s corporate sponsor.
ENR 5/22/17 p. 27
Late-blooming high school engineering teacher inspires at-risk students to design and build complex power projects for poor communities abroad.
Since 2013, Mangus’ students, many of whom have special education needs or are English-language learners, have shipped four constructed 1-kW hybrid power systems and one wind-only system to Nepal.
They plan to send another this spring and two more next year, including a 2kW system with underground conduits. Generators are prewired, packaged and shipped with assembly instructions in Nepalese. After transport through mountains via yak, systems heat classrooms, power laptops and refrigerate vaccines.
Mangus has inspired several students to pursue an engineering degree and a career in construction.
Danielle Ridley, a 16-year-old senior and Jamaican immigrant, wants to study electrical engineering, noting that Mangus gave him the confidence to excel in a recent internship at design firm BVH. “He never tells us the answer,” Ridley says. “He’s always like, ‘Go figure it out.’ ”
Maria Loitz, a firm principal and school board member, says Mangus, who volunteers his time despite having seven adopted children, inspires students to “experience something beyond what they ever thought they could do.”
Says the educator, “What you get paid in your heart is pure gold.”
Benefactor Werth is impressed by the students’ “transformation” in the program and by the systems themselves, which are “still running, and running quite well,” he says.
In early meetings, he didn’t think students were focused enough. Now, he says, “I’m watching little miracles in Hartford.”