READING - At a recent School Committee meeting, RMHS principal Kevin Higginbottom, along with students Jarrett Barros, Scott Freeman and Tim Erwin presented an overview of the Project Lead the Way initiative (PLTW). They also shared a project being worked on by students enrolled in this class.
PLTW is an Activities, Project and Problem-Based curriculum. It leverages uncertainty to emphasize critical thinking, creativity, innovation and real world problem solving. It also utilizes the engineering design process throughout the course sequence.
The PLTW programs are Middle School Engineering, High School Engineering and High School Biomedical Sciences.
Higginbottom stated, “PLTW uses a very constructionist approach for learning engineering. The teachers set up problems and students have to work toward solutions using the engineering design process.”
The PLTW structure is: Intensive professional development for teachers; Ongoing support from PLTW and WPI; and, Sequential learning experiences for students – Foundation, Specialization and Capstone courses for students.
Higginbottom said that Introduction to Engineering Design will lay the foundation and is the initial PLTW course. It will replace the existing Computer Assisted Design (CAD) Program. He added that this will provide baseline knowledge and skill set. It is also seen in the instructional shift to Common Core.
Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) fosters fundamental engineering knowledge and skills. Knowledge includes: Communications and documentation; Vocabulary; Conceptual understanding; Procedural and mathematical understanding and Process and methodology. The skills are: Drawing and Visual representations; Thinking and reasoning; Independent learning; Teamwork and Task management; and, Creative problem solving.
In the PLTW program students are developing design skills through Project Based Learning. Students also learn how to use Statistics to analyze properties of materials and objects. Mathematical modeling and quality control are key elements of Engineering Design. Students are learning through reverse engineering of existing designs. They use both accuracy and precision in measurement and within inventor. They also apply both knowledge and computer skills to problem-solving and design.
The assessment of students’ mastery of curriculum by project-based learning is Achievement = Quality + Determination. The Principals of Engineering (POE) extends what students learned in IED. They will have learned: Knowledge, skill and mode of inquiry. The will also have taken the survey course which includes mechanics, energy, materials, statics and kinematics.
Jarrett, Scott and Tim demonstrated their project for the Committee members. The goal of the project was to light up a series of LED lights located in residential and industrial buildings using different power sources. They first came up with a design using fuel cells and solar panels; the router took out voltage. They explained that they needed to find a way that is more reliable. They found that the wind turbine would light up all of the residential industrial lights. They had to conduct the experiment for a simulated 24 hour period ( 6 minutes). They found that using the turbines was the most efficient way.
School Committee member Charles Robinson said, “It looks like you enjoyed it. Why did you sign up? Be honest.” Jarrett responded, “I love the class. I learn something new every day.”
Scott said that he is planning to study mechanical engineering in college and this course would give him a better basis for mechanical engineering. He said, “I felt like the CAD course would be limited.”
Tim said, “It is hands-on. I like to use my hands; within this I use my hands and my brain.”
School Committee member Lisa Gibbs said, “I don’t think you understand how well you collaborated. I am really appreciative of Dr. Doherty and Mr. Higginbottom.”
Higginbottom said that through the grant they will be able to add two new teachers, digital electronics and a vertical team at the middle school.