The East Kentucky Leadership Conference began its morning sessions at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC) on Thursday, featuring the Young Leaders of Tomorrow program which focuses around Project Lead the Way (PLTW) in some area schools.
SKCTC Professor Gary Steenbergen was the session’s moderator.
“I believe our ultimate goal is to have a four-year civil engineering degree,” said Steenbergen.
He spoke about the different areas of PLTW, including introduction to engineering design, principles of engineering, digital electronics, civil engineering and architecture, computer integrated manufacturing, aerospace engineering, biotechnical engineering and engineering design and development.
PLTW takes a hands-on approach to engineering.
“This is learning by doing,” said SKCTC President Bruce Ayers.
The PLTW Gateway to Technology (GTT) Program in the middle schools features a project-based curriculum designed to challenge and engage the “natural curiosity and imagination” of middle school students.
The students are able to envision, design and test ideas with the same advanced modeling software used by companies like Lockheed Martin, Intel and Sprint, according to a PLTW handout.
Students are able to study mechanical and computer control systems commonly used in robotics and animation. Students also explore the importance of energy, including ways to reduce, conserve and produce energy using solar, thermal and wind power.
The PLTW Pathway to Engineering Program is a program designed to encompass all four years in high school. Students are able to design, test and construct circuits and devices such as smart phones and tables and work collaboratively on a culminating capstone project, according to the handout.
In the high school program, foundation courses are supplemented by a number of electives to create nine “rigorous, relevant, reality-based courses.”
One of the people recognized for the PLTW program was Bob Vaughn, who is a retired member of the First State board of directors and a member of the Middlesboro Independent Education Foundation.
“We are hoping, out of this program, that there will be entrepreneurs in this community who have an idea and create jobs here,” said Vaughn. “We want it to be a reservoir of trained people in this community.”
Vaughn said it took $50,000 to get the program started. Now, as a result, eighth graders are building robots.
“This is just one program of many that we need to be experimenting with,” said Ayers. “We are demonstrating that through a program like this … we can take students at any level and help them succeed academically.”
“We are trying to plant the seed so that any number of things can happen in this community. I hope in the future at Southeast there are many other programs like this,” said Ayers.
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