Don’t assume that a student needs to wait until college to take an engineering class. A variety of Project Lead The Way classes are being offered at a number of high schools in the corridor, giving teens an early taste of the engineering field.
Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids was an early adopter of the Project Lead The Way program. Using a national curriculum that was first developed in New York state, Project Lead The Way provides hands-on, project-based pre-engineering courses for high school students.
“This is our seventh year,” says Lisa Digman, a teacher at Jefferson High School. Jefferson offers seven of the possible eight PLTW classes including Intro to Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering, Civil Engineering and Architecture, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Digital Electronics, Biotechnical Engineering and Engineering Design and Development. At any one time, upwards of 150 to 180 Jefferson students are involved in the program.
“This is the best kept secret in the world,” Digman jokes. “We do a lot of really cool things here.” She points out that the program doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but is actively involved with a community partnership team that includes a number of local engineers from a variety of fields. “We have some big players in the local area here in engineering. It’s an eye opener for our kids.”
Digman notes that many students are surprised by how broad the engineering field can be.
“They really have a preconceived notion that once you become an engineer you do ‘this job.’ They’re surprised to find out that once you get your degree, you can do anything. You can work anywhere, you can take several different roles within a company,” Digman says.
She encourages students and their families to realize how welcoming and rewarding engineering can be for many students, not just the top tier students.
“It’s often those kids in the middle who are really thriving and doing amazing things.” For more information, go online to www. pltw.org.
At Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, a new program is hoping to encourage girls that they can succeed in engineering, too. Teacher Lisa Digman explains that SWEET, the Society of Women Exploring Engineering and Technology, started as a group of female students in Project Lead The Way pre-engineering classes, but has quickly expanded to include girls interested in any STEM field of study.
“We wanted to provide them with some experiences, getting them out on field trips to see places and meet women working in those fields,” Digman says. “We want to take the stereotype away, so that they can see what other girls and women do.”
So far, the SWEET group has traveled to a Microsoft DigiGirlz event in Des Moines and toured General Mills in Cedar Rapids.
“It’s starting to pay off,” Digman says. “Sometimes they just have to see other successful young women.”
Saturday, Feb. 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,
The Iowa Children’s Museum, Coral Ridge Mall, Coralville
• Join engineers from Rockwell Collins and area organizations in hands-on activities and experiments throughout the museum. Free admission is provided from 10 a.m. to
6 p.m. by Rockwell Collins.
Tuesday, Feb. 21
• Rockwell Collins will host 75 8th grade girls from area schools, teaming them up with female engineers to tour labs, listen to speakers and participate in a hands-on engineering activity. (Sign up is directly through the schools and the deadline has passed.)
Thursday, Feb. 23, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Kirkwood Hotel Convention Center, Cedar Rapids
• High school students will have an
opportunity to meet engineers from Rockwell Collins, the Army Corp of Engineers, ADM, Kirkwood, Clipper, Skyworks, Hi-Way Equipment Company, Cyber-Anatomy among others. To attend, contact your high school guidance counselor or email Kasey Tumilty at Kasey.Tumilty@kirkwood.edu.
Saturday, Feb. 25, Iowa Memorial Union, University of Iowa, Iowa City
• FIRST, which stands for ‘For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,’ was founded by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, to give students the opportunity to develop the ‘muscle between their ears.’ Come see 28 teams of high school students compete, each having designed, built and programmed a robot.
March 5 to 10
• Originating from a different part of the world each day, this free, virtual conference is the only event of its kind connecting women in engineering and technology worldwide. Each day features a live, hour-long webcast discussing seminal issues such as clean water, clean energy, food, and entrepreneurship.
Saturday, March 17, 1 to 5 p.m., Lindale Mall, Cedar Rapids
• View student exhibits from around the area as students compete to win trophies, scholarships and a trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh in May. (Deadline to enter is Feb. 26.)
Saturday, March 24, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Eby Gym, Coe College, Cedar Rapids
• See local teams from Franklin, McKinley, Regis and Mount Vernon Middle School, as well as Cedar Rapids Washington High School, compete against more than 250 students from across the state in more than 20 events. To mentor a team, enter a team or serve as a judge, contact Susan Noreuil, (319) 399-8524, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, April 14, Coral Ridge Mall, Coralville
• Canstruction combines the competitive spirit of a design/build competition with a unique way to fill local food banks. Construction begins in the morning, judging takes place at noon, and the exhibits will be on display through April 22. There’s still time to form a team for this year’s competition.
• Teams of middle school students competed earlier this year in a competition that asks kids to come up with solutions to real life problems. This year’s theme was “Fuel Your Future.” The regional competition was held in January at Prairie Point School in Cedar Rapids. The national competition will be held this month in Washington, DC.