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|Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College leads effort for students to excel in engineering programs and careers|
| The nations future economic progress is dependent on a highly skilled and technological workforce. Having well-trained engineers and engineering technologists will be a key component of economic advancement. However, despite the career opportunities in engineering, the number of college degrees awarded in these disciplines has been declining. At the same time, many current engineers are nearing retirement age and will be leaving the workforce. This will add to the predicted shortage of well-trained engineers in the future.|
Having the proper educational foundation to prepare students for success in college-level engineering programs at an early age is critical. One program that is embracing this challenge at the national level is Project Lead The Way®.
Now in its sixth year, Project Lead The Way is an exciting national standards-aligned initiative that introduces middle school and high school students to engineering and engineering technology careers, Eileen Rinaudo, executive director of the program at Penn State, said. Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College has become an affiliate university to offer this program to middle schools and high schools in Pennsylvania. Our responsibility will be to train teachers on how to implement the program in their schools. This teacher training will occur at a Summer Institute that is being planned for the Penn State Berks campus this summer.
Terry L. Speicher, assistant professor of engineering at Penn State Berks, has been trained as a Project Lead The Way affiliate professor. He added, The goal of Project Lead The Way is to get students interested in engineering careers at an early enough age (often by the sixth grade) to enable them to develop their interests and skills in these technical areas. By exposing them to the demands of the engineering field, they will be better prepared for the rigors of a college engineering program.
The Project Lead The Way curriculum provides students with a broad overview of the field of technology. They learn about engineering careers, the type of work involved and the academic skills needed to succeed in engineering programs at the college level.
The middle school program, called Gateway To Technology, is a cutting-edge program that relates technology to students daily lives and addresses the interests and energy of these students, while incorporating national standards in math, science and technology. Gateway To Technology has four units: Design and Modeling, The Magic of Electrons, The Science of Technology, and Automation and Robotics.
The high school pre-engineering program includes courses in Principles of Engineering, Introduction to Engineering Design, Digital Electronics, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Civil Engineering and Architecture, and Engineering Design and Development. Other courses are in development.
The experiences and activities that young people learn through Project Lead The Way will help prepare them to make career choices. The curriculum is project-based and provides an exciting learning environment for students and a challenging teaching environment for teachers.
I have had teachers tell me that this program has changed their entire outlook on teaching and has changed the way they think, Rinaudo said. At the same time, students have said Project Lead The Way makes learning fun!
She said the program also focuses on getting young women and minorities interested in engineering careers by offering these students an opportunity to explore engineering at an early age.
Benefits to high school students include opportunities to apply math and science principles to solve real-world problems, exposure to the latest computer software and equipment used by industry and universities, hands-on activities in a team environment and opportunities to earn college credits. These combined activities are designed to help students improve their academic performance, communication abilities and technical skills needed for engineering and technology jobs.
Colleges and universities participating in Project Lead The Way benefit, as well. They have an opportunity to partner and work with local industry and schools to enhance the economic and workforce development climate in their regions.
Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College is joining a network of Project Lead The Way affiliate universities across the country, including Rochester Institute of Technology, Ferris State University, New Hampshire Technical Institute, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Purdue University, San Diego State University, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, University of South Carolina, Weber State University, University of Houston, University of New Haven and University of Southern Florida. Additional universities and colleges are in the process of being added to the network.
Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College is piloting Project Lead The Way with several area schools and plans to expand the program to other schools across Pennsylvania, Rinaudo said.
Historically, what has happened in other states with the program is that once word gets out on the tremendous benefits of the program, other schools are eager to jump on board and join the network, she said.
Currently, 33 states and more than 500 schools are implementing Project Lead the Way.
This summer, Penn State Berks plans to host the first Project Lead The Way Summer Institute for teachers. During the two-week institute, a master teacher and an affiliate professor will outline the entire one-year program for the Principles of Engineering course. The goal is to prepare participating high school teachers to teach the course during the 200304 school year.
A challenge grant from Pennsylvanias StayInvent the Future initiative is providing initial funding for implementation of Project Lead The Way. The grant includes funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development and Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.
For more information about Project Lead The Way, contact Eileen Rinaudo by phone at 610-396-6313 or by e-mail at email@example.com or visit the programs Web site at http://www.pltw.org.
An outreach program of Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College