With jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) expected to grow more than twice that of other fields, St. Francis Borgia Regional High School wants to make sure its students are being exposed to those skills.
The co-ed Catholic high school is teaming up with Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla to implement Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a STEM-focused curriculum and teacher professional development program.
Borgia also plans to renovate its media center into a STEM lab thanks to a $160,000 gift from its endowment committee. Renovation of the center will take place over the summer.
The new lab will be fully equipped with computers and other equipment necessary for the school’s first pre-engineering course.
Project Lead The Way
PLTW is a national program which offers a hands-on, project-based approach to learning that better prepares students for the rigors of college. Its premier high school program, Pathway to Engineering, is a four-year course of study integrated into the students’ core curriculum.
Borgia plans to start by offering an introduction to engineering class next school year which would be open to freshmen through seniors, according to Kevin Mabie, principal.
From there, the school hopes to add an additional class each year, with interested students eventually being able to take up to four years of engineering-related classes.
The high school will send two or possibly three of its math and science teachers to Missouri S&T’s Training Institute for their PLTW courses this summer.
“It’s a three-week training and they come back ready to teach,” said Mabie. “Those same teachers would then go back each summer for additional training.”
The idea for the program and lab actually grew out of a discussion during one of the school’s Borgia and Beyond Initiative meetings.
Mabie said a parent asked if the school would consider offering a pre-engineering course.
“So we decided to contact Missouri S&T to see if an instructor would be available to teach a class. They said they wouldn’t be able to do that, but they told us how they are the state representative for Project Lead The Way,” he said. “We started to look into the program and really liked it.”
Another component of the overall program is biomedical sciences, but for now Borgia is only pursuing the engineering side.
“We only want to implement one new program at this time given the magnitude of it, but we certainly hope biomedical sciences will follow in the future,” Mabie said.
Students will not receive college credit for the engineering classes, but an AP-style test is available after four years and students can often test out of some college classes.
Mabie said school officials are very excited about the program.
“With so many jobs out there in science and engineering, we feel this is a very important endeavor for our school,” he said.
Mabie said students often don’t always understand what engineers really do. But PLTW’s hands-on curriculum will give them a taste of the variety, creativity, teamwork and possibilities engineering fields can offer.
Taking PLTW courses can help students decide whether an engineering-related career is right for them, he said.
The STEM lab will be equipped with all new computers, three-dimensional printers and other equipment which will allow students to build, and even launch, items they’ve created.
“Students will be able to create a product on their computer and then actually build it in the lab and test it,” Mabie said. “I think one of the biggest advantages of the program is that it’s very hands on, prepping students to go create and build, who wouldn’t love that.”
And even for students who may not necessarily be interested in an engineering career, the classes will still be beneficial, Mabie said, because it will enhance their skills in math and science.
The lab also will be available to math and science teachers who have not completed the training, but want to do some hands-on projects in their classes.
Another important component to Borgia’s STEM program will be local business support, Mabie said.
Jeff Hellebusch, a Borgia alum and vice president of Hellebusch Tool and Die, which specializes in the engineering and building of injection molds and dies for the plastics and casting industry, is working to build support for the program.
“The endowment fund has been critical in getting this started and building the lab, but we will need the support of local businesses to help fund materials and teacher training as we grow,” Mabie said.
“We also want to have local engineers and business owners in our classrooms talking about what they do so our students can learn about opportunities right here in this community,” he added. “Hopefully we can grow engineers who will go on to college and come back home to work.
“We want kids to know there is a future for them, a very good future, if this is something they want to pursue.”
Mabie said the business partners will be recognized in the stem lab so students know these companies are helping make the program possible.
George Wingbermuehle, school president, described the new program as “phenomenal” and an incredible opportunity for students today and in the future.
He said Borgia wants to make sure its students can develop the skills necessary to succeed in a global economy, and Project Lead The Way will help do just that.
The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) will grow 17 percent by 2018 — nearly double the growth for non-STEM fields.
By 2018, the United States will have more than 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs because there will not be enough qualified workers to fill them. STEM is where jobs are today and where the job growth will be in the future, school officials said.