Students Build Toward a Bright Future

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) students, and the instructors certified to guide them, learn by doing, building, testing, and working together in teams. That’s the philosophy behind the hands-on assignments taking shape in St. Barbara, Room 235, the engineering hub of the CJ STEMM Center.

In early September, students enrolled in the Civil Engineering and Architecture course -- a new PLTW offering in 2014-15 -- built scale models of structures from household materials like cardboard, foam board and hot glue (pictured top). Meanwhile, their studious peers in Principles of Engineering built machines out of levers and pulleys using kits supplied by VEX Robotics (pictured below).

“PLTW classes have been really interesting and I know they’ll help me with what I hope to study in the future,” Matt Allaire ‘16 said. The junior has already completed two of the four engineering offerings at CJ and is currently discovering different styles of architecture and design elements in class with teacher Matt Fuhs.

“I see us PLTW teachers preparing students for on-the-job type training,” Fuhs said. The second-year CJ instructor himself spent the summer training at a PLTW Ohio workshop at Sinclair Community College to become certified to teach the course.

“It’s important for students to work on projects, to have deadlines, and to meet project specifications,” Fuhs added. He and Allaire both feel PLTW courses also provide a good way for students to test out different engineering fields while still in high school, before making any college decisions.

Architecture students will design 3D models of commercial and residential structures on computer software in the engineering labs throughout the year, Fuhs said.

His new PLTW colleague, first-year CJ teacher Eric Grimm, started out the year by challenging his students to engineer a compound machine out of several different simple machines. Eventually, he said, those same machines will be programmed by students to run robotically through C++ computer coding.

“I learned to teach these assignments by doing the same activities during the PLTW certification process,” Grimm said. He, like Fuhs, spent the summer training to teach the Principles of Engineering (POE) course at Purdue University.