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PLTW Engineering Offers Interdisciplinary Learning #1

PLTW's approach to STEM learning goes beyond the study of science, technology, engineering, and math. Through activity-, project-, and problem-based curriculum, PLTW gives students a chance to lead their own learning and apply their cross-disciplinary knowledge to solve true-to-life challenges.

Two new courses within PLTW Engineering exemplify this hands-on, interdisciplinary approach: Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSE) and Environmental Sustainability (ES). Both courses are available to implement in 2015-16.

PLTW outlines one of these two courses, Computer Science and Software Engineering, below. (Look out for “PLTW Engineering Offers New Interdisciplinary Learning Opportunities for 2015-16: Part 2” for information on Environmental Sustainability.)

Interdisciplinary Learning in Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSE)

Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSE) is both a specialty course in PLTW Engineering and a foundation course in PLTW Computer Science. In CSE, students discover connections across the subjects of computer science, digital electronics, and data visualization and become familiar with the wide variety of opportunities available for employment in every field to those with expertise in computer science and software engineering.

Through the activities in the course, students use computer science and software engineering in conjunction with other disciplines including:

Art: In one CSE lesson, students create an online art portal, which peers can use to upload art with accompanying information and to search for others’ projects. This course opens up opportunities for a school’s CSE teacher to form a partnership with the school’s art teacher, giving students the chance to work together across courses.

Biology: In one activity, students use automation to process and analyze a high volume of DNA-sequence data and then determine which samples are most closely related.

Digital Electronics/Engineering: Students build logic gates using discrete components. In doing so, students discover the “hows” and “whys” behind computation.

Mathematics: In all CSE activities, students apply concepts from Algebra I and Algebra II – including equalities, inequalities, and graphing.

Photography/Photo Editing: With the Python Imaging Library (PIL), CSE students use code to manipulate images in the same way they might with a program like Photoshop. By creating simple versions of tools found in photo-editing programs, students are able to automate editing processes.

Furthermore, students collaborate to create and present solutions that can improve people's lives, and weigh the ethical and societal issues of how computing and connectivity are changing the world.

Students are able to count CSE as both the third course of PLTW Engineering and the first course of PLTW Computer Science if they decide to pursue and complete two programs of study. CSE is aligned to the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) 3B standards and to the new AP Computer Science Principles Curriculum Framework, launching in Fall 2016.