East Penn Press

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Emmaus High School will offer two new

Thursday, November 12, 2015 by April Peterson apeterson@tnonline.com in School

Starting in the fall 2016 semester, Emmaus High School students will have the opportunity to take new courses in engineering.

Freshmen will be offered the courses “Introduction to Engineering Design” and “Principles of Engineering” as part of Project Lead the Way, Laura Witman, supervisor of secondary curriculum and instruction for the East Penn School District, said.

Interest in the courses is growing.

The word is getting out among students through social media and student representatives to the East Penn Board of School Directors said students are likely to register for the classes, according to Witman.

Teacher training started during summer break. Teachers Steven Braglio and Eric Smith completed a rigorous two-week training sequence at Bucknell University.

And Witman, a veteran of two school districts using Project Lead the Way, the parent program for the courses, is enthusiastic about implementing the courses.

“I’m very excited. The tech ed teachers are excited to get this started,” Witman said in a recent interview in her office.

The prospect of the courses has sparked a re-branding of the Tech Ed department to the “Technology and Engineering Department.”

“The teachers were ready to start this year,” Witman said of the buzz about the program.

“I am extremely excited to start teaching IED next fall at EHS,” Smith wrote in a recent email. “Students at East Penn will really benefit from these real-world applicable courses.”

The courses will join architecture, drafting and engineering technology offerings at EHS.

Project Lead the Way develops science, technology, engineering and math or STEM, curricula.

Nearby districts using Project Lead the Way include Parkland, Quakertown and Bethlehem, according to the organization’s website.

Parkland High School offers Project Lead the Way courses to all grade levels, including a Capstone course for seniors, according to the programs of study listed on the district website. Foundation courses are offered to freshmen and sophomores and a specialization course in the Project Lead the Way curricula can be taken by juniors.

High school students in the Parkland School District began Project Lead the Way courses more than a dozen years ago after Jim Kester, current head of the technology and engineering department, learned of Project Lead the Way while at a conference in 2002.

Kester estimates 700 students have taken Project Lead the Way courses in his district. Past Project Lead the Way students have included children of the superintendent, assistant superintendent and at least one member of the school board. Some of the students are now engineers and siblings of former students often go through the programs as well.

“We believe in it,” Kester said of the Project Lead the Way program. “Teachers feel it is extremely valuable.”

The East Penn School District will begin its efforts in Emmaus High School. Curricula for elementary and middle schools also are offered through Project Lead the Way.

According to a presentation given by Witman at a recent school board meeting, the “Introduction to Engineering Design” and “Principles of Engineering” are considered foundation courses. Students will do collaborative projects, including robotics. Problem-solving sessions are preferred over a traditional or standard lecture format.

Each course is designed to extend a full academic year.

The start-up costs for the “Introduction to Engineering Design course” is anticipated to be about $32,600 and the price tag will include a computer lab. “Principles of Engineering” will cost about $20,000 and much of that cost is expected to be for robotics kits.

There is also a $3,000 annual Project Lead the Way participation fee to cover such expenses as software updates.

Grants and corporate partnerships are being sought to help address the cost of the courses, Witman said.

Teacher training started in the summer.

Trainees covered a month of material each eight-hour day in the classroom and had homework each night.

“We were in class from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day,” Smith wrote in a recent email.

“Steve and I would go to dinner right after class so we could get back to the hotel to work on the day’s assignments. Most nights we worked three to five hours more to catch up and prepare for the next day of class.”

Training is renewed every five years, Kester said.

Smith and Kester have talked several times, Kester said.

“They are ready to go,” Kester said of Smith, Braglio and the East Penn School District.

“It (the program) will grow on its own,” Kester continued. “They just need to be prepared.”