Ulrich began working in construction at age 14 after practicing with his inherited equipment, became licensed at the age of 18 and went to college and received a degree in engineering from Western Michigan University. Now he is the head of the engineering program at Park City High School.
The program allows students to earn up to 18 college credits from Weber State University or 15 college credits from Utah Valley University and is a new pilot program at Park City High and five other Utah schools.
"It started as a pre-pilot and then five schools started the pilot as a replacement for several courses," Ulrich said. "They created a new course that the state is now adopting as part of their major curriculum."
The program is called Introduction to Engineering and Technical Design. Most students are juniors and seniors, but this year is the first year in which sophomores are allowed to take concurrent enrollment classes.
Ulrich said the program started from a Technologically Intensive Concurrent Enrollment (TICE) grant originally centered on math and science. The second year TICE grant allowed engineering courses to be designed and developed, so Ulrich spent a week this past summer meeting with a committee of teachers, engineers and professors from every university in the state.
Together, they worked to align high school with college and bridge the gap between the two in terms of engineering. "It's a lot different from a traditional classroom, because we focus on students really building things and creating things they can actually use," he said.
Students are able to create designs on the computers in the classroom, which can be downloaded to a state of the art 3-dimensional printer that they received with a grant from the Park City Education Foundation in December. Ulrich said his students can print out their designs to size.
Victor Liwanag, a junior at Park City High School and the president and founder of the Engineering Club, is currently in Ulrich's Architecture I class and gets to use the printer for his designs.
"[Ulrich] is a great teacher, and he has really started something that I feel is groundbreaking," Liwanag said. "As far as I know, we are the second high school in the U.S. to have a 3-D printer in the classroom. Not a whole lot of high schools would trust their students with a 3-D printer, a wood shop and computers as part of a whole engineering program where you plan it, design it and build it."
Liwanag said he is thinking of applying to Utah State University and pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. He said he will have 12 college credits by the time he graduates next May.
Both Ulrich and Liwanag spoke about the need for skills in construction of buildings that run on sustainable energy and use renewable sources. Ulrich said that is what he is trying to teach his students, and Liwanag is appreciative since that is what his engineering club is attempting to learn.
"I'm seeing there is a trend where population is increasing, and there are a lot of global and green problems out there," Liwanag said. "I know those problems are not going to go away, so I came up with the club as a means of expanding not only the skills we have for the engineering design process but the skills we need to make other people's lives better."
Now that the concurrent enrollment program is one that the state is adopting as curriculum, Park City High School principal Bob O'Connor is grateful to have Ulrich head the program at his school.
"Within one year, he turned something that was a part-time job into a full-time job," he said. "It's amazing what he's done with the program in such a short time."