What do Purdue, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and Penn State - to name a few- have in common? These universities all participate in the federally-sponsored Project Lead the Way program. Locally, students can participate in the program at Southeastern Regional High School.
One of the most attractive aspects of the PLTW program is that by completing a high school course in an approved engineering course and passing the year end college assessment test, your child can earn college credits worth thousands of dollars at prestigious colleges before even graduating high school.
Although much effort was needed to align the course curriculum and meet the specifications of the Project Lead the Way program, in 2011 Southeastern Regional qualified to offer the PLTW program. The participating students pay a course fee and the PLTW teachers complete two-week training sessions for each PLTW class to encourage students in innovation, interactive participation and creativity within the various subject matters.
Under the school administration’s direction, it’s not just the typical engineering and computer-aided drafting(CAD) students that are eligible, but Southeastern Regional has expanded the program to virtually all students.
“Since PLTW classes have been offered to all students, many have become inspired to pursue a post-secondary degree in Engineering," said vocational director Leslie Weckesser. "Students from vocational programs such as cabinetmaking, construction, electrical, HVAC, have begun enrolling in engineering programs. What is most impressive is that students are engaged in learning high level Math and Science through hands on applications.”
The students enjoy building and designing various projects like a working recycling center, robots, catapults and paper roller-coasters. The exercises bring out their ingenuity and creativity while simultaneously implementing various scientific principals including hydraulics, and potential and kinetic energy.
“That’s what this is trying to do- train the kids to work in the real world,” said instructor Robert Wood who is qualified to teach five PLTW courses.
The STEM-focused (scientific, technology, engineering and math), courses are also attracting companies such as NSTAR to these participating students. NSTAR has begun providing internships for some PLTW students and recruiting for full-time positions upon graduation.
The Project Lead the Way program has been instituted to encourage students to expose themselves at an early age to the many STEM careers. By Southeastern Regional High integrating these PLTW courses into its curriculum, they offer students a great opportunity to gain vital experience and college credits toward these careers; careers which statistically have more opportunities and jobsthan workers to fill them…and highly-skilled, well-paying jobs at that.