Psychiatric Engineering

By: Leela Hudnall, Reporter, Manager

Engineering is a wide and wondrous field, full of tons of different specialties. That is to say, there is something for everyone. People who go into engineering often start off with the idea that they are going to build rockets or bridges, because that is “about all an engineer does.” However, that assumption is actually very misleading because once you learn a little bit more about engineering, one can deduce that there is a whole lot more to the field than bridges and rockets. Although yes, you can be a civil engineer, who builds bridges, or an aerospace engineer, who builds rockets, thousands of more engineering types exist, ranging from mechanical to electrical to environmental, and many more. One of the lesser known types of engineering is called precision psychiatric engineering, or psychological engineering. Similar to biotechnological engineers, psychiatric engineering focuses on creating technology to help solve problems that facilities face during psychiatric care or research. 

Creating technology such as devices, diagnostic tools, new robotics, and software, can significantly change the way psychiatrists go about treatment and research to improve mental health and knowledge of the brain. Studying and treating different illnesses of the brain requires a lot of knowledge and research, and by combining psychiatry and engineering, that knowledge and research can be done much faster and with much higher quality. When you combine biotechnology and electrical engineering, you can create things that work very efficiently with the brain, as it essentially is just a complex biological circuit. There are endless possibilities for creating better systems for therapies, treatments, and imaging systems, all throughout engineering. Psychiatry is a growing field, which means a growing demand for newer and more advanced technologies. 

Engineering psychologists work a little bit on the inverse, using psychology to solve real world problems. Psychological rules apply to most of the population, and by knowing and using that knowledge, psychological engineers can make technology and the world a safer, more efficient place. By focusing on people and their interactions with technology, these engineers use their problem solving skills to make things easily accessible, and safe to use. Jobs like these range from deciding where to put the blinker switch on your car, to making sure your safety features are simple and understandable, in case you actually are in danger. They not only study how to do things right, but study how others have done things wrong, all in an attempt to do them better the next time. The job of a psychological engineer is never ending, attempting to minimize human error and make the world a better, safer place. 

If you are ever thinking of learning more about engineering, or maybe even going into the field, make sure you do your research on all the amazing options that are available to you. Things like psychiatric based engineering are not commonly talked about, but are a great source for learning, and can create a very interesting field for someone with diverse interests. Engineering has synergy with many other fields, and many people don’t realize how opportunity-rich the field is. Going into engineering is often seen as just a way to provide a substantial paycheck, but it is also an extremely gratifying field. For anyone who enjoys problem solving and lifelong learning, Engineering can be more than just a job, it can be an amazing, lifelong career. 

Engineering Psychiatry Research Program (EPRP). Engineering Psychiatry Research Program (EPRP) | Electrical and Computer Engineering. (n.d.). https://www.ece.ucsd.edu/undergraduate/engineering-psychiatry-research-program-eprp.

Precision psychiatry: Engineering therapies for better mental health. Stanford School of Engineering. (2017, August 30). https://engineering.stanford.edu/magazine/article/precision-psychiatry-engineering-therapies-better-mental-health. 

Cherry, K. (n.d.). Why Engineering Psychology Is One of the Highest Paid Psychology Jobs. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/engineering-psychologist-2795650#:~:text=Engineering%20psychologists%20are%20able%20to,traffic%20systems%2C%20and%20motor%20vehicles. 

What is Mastery Grading?

A Review of Mastery Grading

By: Leela Hudnall, Reporter, Manager of ASCTE Media

The mastery grading system is an innovative new system for grading school students, used to create less focus on number grades, points, and averages, and more focus on education and a strong conceptual understanding of a subject. 

Although plenty of colleges and schools have used this grading system, many have yet to implement it due to disagreement or potential misunderstanding of the concept, or potentially the comfort level with the historically more familiar numeral grading system. 

What is mastery grading? Why is it used?  Mastery grading, for those not familiar with educational trends, can be confusing. However, it’s not as perplexing as it seems, only unfamiliar. Mastery grading is formatted as follows:

  • 0.0– Insufficient Evidence
  • 1.0– Beginning 
  • 2.5– Emerging 
  • 3.5– Proficient 
  • 4.5– Mastery

There is a school in Huntsville, Alabama employing mastery grading. That school, the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering’s (ASCTE) outlines their plan for mastery grading on their website (ascte.org) in the student hand book, or education guide, and they define mastery grading as this:

Insufficient Evidence (I) is an extremely rare occurrence, and is a grade only assigned when assignments are fully incomplete and there is not substantial evidence of work ethic and the student has not displayed enough completion of work to even be evaluated for grades. Again, this is very rare. 

Beginning (B) is considered a failing grade. Any student who receives a 1.0 is not displaying the ability to complete assignments at the expected rate, or only completes them with substantial assistance. This student cannot display the ability to retain an understanding of the topic, and cannot fluently discuss terminology or just does not demonstrate a solid ability to skillfully complete the work to an extent that they would be considered proficient. 

Emerging (E) is assigned when a student requires a noticeable amount of guidance to successfully complete assignments, but can, to some extent, discuss the topic and concepts. The student “demonstrates limited understanding and needs additional development to obtain proficiency.” That statement was in bold on the ASCTE website, and it seems to imply that the emerging student is generally someone who can raise their grade to a passing score (3.0) successfully, and just needs more help and must put forth a little more effort than they are at the time. 

Proficient (P) is when a student “meets basic expectations of proficiency”, which is basically just a good understanding of the topic. Students need minimal guidance and can coherently discuss most ideas. This grade is still a great grade, but the reason a student will get a proficient grade instead of mastery is because they “could still use more development in applying and enhancing their knowledge or skill.” Meaning that proficiency is a great grade, but at this school, ASCTE is promoting complete expertise in a subject. Meaning mastery could be reworded to just say an above standards, or overachievement.

Mastery (M) is successfully performing without any assistance, having a strong or excellent understanding of the subject, demonstrating thorough knowledge and being able to collaborate or assist peers. Mastery is the best grade a student can get, and is a “perfect” score for the pupil. 

Grading in schools is a necessary thing. While many believe that grading should be abolished (for various reasons), studies have shown that when removal is attempted, many people (especially parents) revolt at such a long standing tradition being done away with, even at an elementary education level. However, oftentimes traditional grading does not fully capture a student’s capabilities(O’Connor, How to grade for learning, 2018 pp. 162-164).  Students can make all passing grades and then receive a zero and fail the entire class, even though they were not failing to comprehend what the class was about. In most school systems the zero grade is given for missed or incomplete assignments, or failing to take a test. When a student receives a zero, it can tank their grade and cause them to fail, when in all other cases (exemplified by grades), they understood what they were being taught. Mastery grading eliminates the unproportional gap between a 0-60, compared to 60-70, 70-80, 80-90, and 90-100. Instead, it uses more proportional numbers, spanning from 0-4.5. 


Since most students, parents, and teachers in our country are more accustomed to the standard grading system, this may seem unusual, but many  recent researchers are finding mastery grading to be more conducive to subject retention.

“Mastery grading is a new concept to [him]” according to Mr. Matt Bohon, Cyber 101 and Pre- AP Calculus teacher at ASCTE, who has been in education for more than three decades. Bohon said that while it has been a slow process to learn all the ins and outs of mastery grading, he truly appreciates the fact that it “reflects student learning much better than traditional grades.” He went on to explain it’s “not just throwing points together and averaging them,” as we may think of as traditional grading, but instead, with mastery grading, Bohon said that “your grade is more what you have done and how much progress you have demonstrated.”

ASCTE President Matt Massey and Sharona Krinsky, administrator and instructor from California State University (CSU), met via Zoom in preparation for a conference on mastery grading aimed at encouraging new schools to adopt mastery grading and raise awareness about the benefits of this approach. During this meeting, both Massey and Krinsky shared personal stories on successes and challenges related to the mastery grading system. But, both agree this is a more advantageous approach than the traditional numerical system.

According to Massey, the optimal circumstances for implementing the mastery grading system is a small school with innovative teachers. He said most failures he knew of related to mastery grading took place in schools where only one person, most often the assistant principal, was championing the change, noting that they struggled to enforce the new system across the board, leading to some teachers implementing the approach while others resisted the change.

Many curriculum experts believe mastery grading is the future of educational success, but teachers, who are the lynchpin to translating this new method into reality with students, need to be educated on benefits and persuaded to be change champions. 

Krinsky shared an example of this, saying that at CSU has been using mastery grading for three years, and despite some shaky implementation levels, they were successful in getting teachers to champion the curriculum development and implementation and help cultivate the new learning environment. 

According to Krinksy, “The only kind of innovation that sticks is disruptive innovation,” and she made sure that was what happened. Completely new learning styles, new grading, and new curriculum led to improvements in grade point averages and in retention rates.

This example of success is what Massey intends to implement at ASCTE, and he freely shared that employing this new system had somewhat of a shaky start, but with real-time lessons learned from implementation followed by some slight adjustments, ASCTE has begun to see some distinguished differences in the mastery grading system and how it helps students interact with material, enjoy learning, and retain material. 

One of the main concerns Massey and Krinksy discussed during the meeting was the challenge associated with writing a curriculum adhered to state learning targets. State standards are not course learning targets, and are meant to be read and understood by teachers instead of students. This approach is not always compatible with mastery grading, as learning targets need to be read and understood by students so they can comprehend the proficient and mastery requirements for each unit. According to Krinsky, these needed to be “Clear, accessible, and measurable student-facing learning targets, with a goldilocks amount of detail.”

“Students should be able to understand whether they are proficient,” Krinsky said,”just by judging whether they can fully describe and understand the [learning target] standard.” Progress can seem slow with mastery grading, but it is steadily affecting students positively, and teachers are also slowly adjusting to the difference as well.

What are the tangible benefits for students and teachers with the mastery grading system? According to Krinsky, the effect that mastery grading had in the classroom was monumental. “[Mastery grading] is accessible for any type of teacher,” she said,”You can do this and no matter what, you can create a dramatic impact,” said Krinsky.

“As a teacher I want to have a conversation with the student about the content. What is it about the content that is preventing the student from getting [a good grade]?  Before mastery grading, instead of talking about the subject and the concepts they needed to learn, they were just talking about how many points they need to pass.” Krinksy says, “Now, math students are having actual math conversations with me, and amongst each other!” 

Krinksy’s students went from comparing the points they were earning, to talking about math and the education they were getting. There was no more competition between the A students and the B students, or shaming the kids who were getting “bad grades,” students were learning the knowledge and concepts and not competing for a higher grade point average. 

Krinsky said this system has allowed her to be more rigorous in her curriculum and still see overall success among students. She knows they are capable, and that they are succeeding, because she is focused on assessing the real content. 

Massey agreed strongly with this type of grading, saying he is invested in how the students learn and not on a number grade, but rather based on a good understanding on the topic. “Quit chasing a number and go chase the learning,” said Massey. 

The mastery grading system eliminates the risk of a student failing based off of a single mistake or a single test grade.  If a student develops an understanding of a concept but receives a bad grade early on, they have increased opportunities to not only raise the grade but heighten their understanding of the subject matter. Rather than accumulating points for a numerical grade point average, students are individually assessed on their depth and knowledge of the material.

“Mastery grading is an effective system, and the way it is implemented at my school, ASCTE, is well improved upon across other schools [in my area],” said Joshua Ledlow, a 15 year old sophomore from the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. He credits ASCTE’s success to their constant dedication, saying that “All of the teachers are fully embracing it, and the education is built around [mastery grading] and not vice versa.” Ledlow believed that the recurrent cause of problems in mastery grading is attempting to build the grading system to work around the curriculum, instead of creating a curriculum that works smoothly with mastery grading. According to Jaelyn Longino, another sophomore using the mastery grading system, “It is a pretty fair grading system over all, and gives students more room for improving.” Longino went on to say that she enjoyed the learning focused environment, and that the system “emphasizes more on application than on memorization.”  

Students, Teachers and Admin all have something to say about Mastery Grading, a new way to inspire learning in the school system. But will it take hold?  Is mastery grading the future? Jaelyn Longino, Matt Massey, Matt Bohon, and Joshua Ledlow all say yes, and according to Sharona Krinsky, “[when you use mastery grading] the grades get better because the students are getting better.” 

  • Academics / Academic Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved April 07, 2021, from https://www.ascte.org/Page/1111 
  • O’Connor, K. (2018). How to grade for learning: Crunching Numbers: The Use of Zeros. In How to Grade for Learning (Third ed., K-12, pp. 162-164). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin, a SAGE Company.

F-16 Fighting Falcon

F-16 Fighting Falcon | Lockheed Martin
Copyright by Lockheed Martin

By: Sam Ware, Reporter

The United States Air Force (USAF) has had a formidable machine at its disposal for the past 42 years.  The F-16 Fighting Falcon Jetfighter is currently one of the main workhorses of the USAF with currently over 1,245 in active use from Active service, Air National Guard, and the Reserve. Since being first given to the USAF in 1979, the F-16 has proven itself as one of the most deadly aircraft in America’s arsenal.

With a max service ceiling of 50,000ft., the operational range of 2,002 miles, and the max speed of 1,500mph or Mach 2 at cruising altitude makes it almost superior to most aircraft in use by the Russians and Chinese. It also can operate at full capacity when performing maneuvers or going at speeds that cause the Aircraft to pull more than 9g’s which is even more than the newest US fighter which currently is the F-35. 

Currently, the most recent action the F-16 has seen has been with the ongoing War on Terror which has spanned all over the Middle East with most of the combat being split between Afghanistan and Iraq. However, since the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the F-16 has not seen air to air combat. As of now, the F-16 is now being used for ground Strikes. The F-16 stands as one of the most impressive aircraft in the USAF.

We Love Engineering; But Let’s Talk About that Pay Gap.


By: Leela Hudnall, Reporter, Manager

 Most everyone at the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering loves engineering. Shocking; I know. However, as much as we love this field, no one is perfect, and neither is engineering. In honor of National Equal Pay Day and National Women’s History Month, let’s discuss the pay gap.

First, a few statistics: on average, male civil engineers are paid $1,551 per week; female civil engineers are paid 82.7% of what males make, coming out to roughly $1,282 less per week. For curiosity’s sake, I did the math. That comes out to about a $14,000 pay difference per year.

If you are a female (or a minority of practically any kind), I’m sure you understand the frustration, but if not, let me state it clearly: being paid less because of your XX chromosomes sucks. Forgive me for not being more graceful with my words, but I can’t imagine it is easy for all those female civil engineers to handle that knowledge gracefully. I’m sure Engineering Technicians relate, as their gender pay gap is even bigger, coming up to making about 80.9% of what males make – an $11,471 difference per year. And yet again, let’s not forget our female Industrial Engineers who make $21,274 less each year.

With this knowledge in mind, you can understand that this is in no way a complaint, but aimed at raising awareness. These women are being treated unfairly by a system that should be supporting everyone, but in reality, was very much built for someone other than them.

Despite the fact that years of experience can slowly close the pay gap, the salaries are still not equal. In 2021, starting someone off with a disadvantage due to their gender is not acceptable – political views aside.

Studies show that women leave the engineering field much more often than men. Initially this may be seen as some “cause” for why they make less than men. I’ve actually heard this used as an excuse before, so I decided to address it here and urge you to think deeper. Why are women leaving the field so much earlier and so much more often than men? I propose that it is a deeper social issue.

It’s not just engineers; it’s not just ​this​ system. These women leave the field of their own volition, and we take that statistic at a face value. Behind the scenes, the reality is that women face societal pressures and expectations, that men do not.

 For example: Engineering is a tasking (yet rewarding) field, and requires time and dedication. When men come home just in time for dinner, it’s more often perceived as them working hard to provide for the family, but when women make it home a few minutes late, it can be perceived as abandoning the family or neglecting their duties.

Of course, it’s not every engineer, not every family, but I’m sure we can agree that it’s a problem most people are aware and have seen it happen. I think I speak for all the future engineers here at ASCTE, we are working to raise awareness and continue progress related to the workforce (engineering especially) started by the previous generation.

THE END IS NEAR – Or So I Hope


By: Javen Bies-Dupree, Reporter  

March is filled with exciting new beginnings. From an international PI day for mathematicians to the beginning of spring for nature lovers; everyone can find their gimmick during this exciting new time. Now a full year after this Friday the 13th, a day that even Jason would be scared of, March can add a new “beginning” to its belt: one that teens, parents, and students all resent to this date. March 13 marks the one-year anniversary of the closing of American school systems due to the global pandemic-causing virus: SARS-CoV-2 virus aka Coronavirus. With the pandemic reaching 1 year old, it is time to ask the question that: 

WILL IT EVER END?

Looking back to March 13 or as Medical Professor C.R. Doarn of the University of Cincinnati puts it, “THE DAY THE WORLD STOOD STILL”, Covid-19 cases were beginning to rise rapidly and were far from over. Last year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported 1,678 new Covid-19 cases with a record death of 41 deaths. Today, this number hails in comparison to the 29,310,018 cases and 532,355 deaths that have impacted at least every American in some way, shape, or form through the form of a loved one or celebrity icon.

Over the year, the CDC has become overwhelmed by the spread of the Coronavirus, however, it may be for nothing. This is thanks to the creation of the Covid-19 vaccines that are quickly sweeping the nation. As of today, over 10% of the population has received at least one of the two-shot vaccines. Right now, the vaccine is being targeted towards citizens who fit one of the following categories:

  1. 1A Essential Health Worker
  2. 1B and 1C Essential Worker
  3. Persons age 55 and older
  4. Persons with high-risk health concerns over the age of 16

The vaccine is predicted to become available to all Americans by Mid-Summer of 2021 and soon become a regular procedure routine like Influenza, Rabies, and Hepatitis Vaccines.

A year ago, Covid seemed like something equal to the common cold. Today, we recognize it as the biggest event for most of our lives. With the implementation of the vaccines and fellow protocols around Covid-19, it seems like Americans may be able to put “The Virus” behind them. Maybe we can all finally stop having to grab a mask every time we want to go see a family member and maybe we can go back to the parties and adventures that make life fun. Either way, while things may not ever be the same as a year ago, the future may have better benefits to come. 

For additional information regarding Covid-19 and Vaccine Accessibility, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/ 

Center for Disease Control. (2021). COVID-19. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Doarn, C. R., & Merrel, R. (2020). The day the Earth stood still: Covid-19. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32384021/