Project Lead the Way, a national high school and middle school pre-engineering curriculum designed to attract higher numbers of young people to careers in technology and engineering, recently got a helping hand from the University of Missouri-Rolla.
Dr. Ralph Flori, assistant dean of engineering for pre-college and undergraduate programs in the UMR School of Engineering, will lead the project’s efforts in Missouri.
"Project Lead the Way classes prepare students not just to be engineers, but to be technology workers," Flori says. "The program introduces students to the exciting, man-made world of iPods, personal computers and automobiles. That’s a departure from traditional high school science."
The program’s curriculum focuses on activities and team-based projects that give students the chance to work with their hands and see how math fits into those activities. "The students are excited and the teachers are re-energized," Flori adds. "Principals and other administrators are especially interested in Project Lead the Way because these students are more likely to succeed on standards-based testing."
As the state’s lead affiliate, UMR will work with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as with two associate affiliates, St. Louis Community College and Central Missouri State University, to coordinate the introduction of the program’s four-year sequence of courses to schools in the state.
More than 20 schools in Missouri are already teaching courses from Project Lead the Way, although most are in their first year.
"We would like to see Project Lead the Way offered to every high school in the state of Missouri," Flori says. "That’s a big goal but it’s probably that necessary. You’ve got many kids in high school who seem to float through, not really engaged, who aren’t sure of what to do with their lives. Project Lead the Way classes will help them discover and be prepared for an exciting career in a technology or engineering field."
Project Lead the Way was first developed in the 1980s by Richard Blais, who was then chair of the technology department of an upstate New York school district. The program is now offered in more than 42 states and the District of Columbia. For more information about Project Lead the Way, visit www.pltw.org.