A Look Back at PLTW Summit 2016

PLTW Summit 2016 brought together a diverse group of more than 1,800 guests – students, teachers, school administrators, business and community leaders, university and college administrators, nonprofit and philanthropic partners, and government officials – committed to innovation in education.

Guests from Maine to the Northern Mariana Islands had countless opportunities to connect, learn, and grow alongside others committed to empowering students to thrive in our evolving world.

Check out a day-by-day breakdown of event highlights below:

Day 1

During our opening general session, PLTW Summit guests learned what PLTW Gateway students The STEM Sisters discovered after spending an isolated weekend on Mars.

Guests also heard from John Urschel, mathematician and NFL player for the Baltimore Ravens. In his keynote, he emphasized the value of students getting the opportunity to ask “Why?” during the learning process, as well as the crucial role teachers and mentors play in empowering students to thrive.

“Our youth is our future, and it matters to be role models for them. It matters to show up for them. It matters to show them and tell them what they can be,” Urschel said.

“Giving them the tools they need to succeed: I don't know of a better task for us,” he continued. “I don't know what could be a better use of our time. Our future depends on it. Their future depends on it.”

Day 2

On day two, guests heard from PLTW Biomedical Science alumna Kelsie O’Brien – C/Third Class, United States Air Force Academy – who shared how her PLTW experiences helped shape who she is today.  

In the following keynote, Marion Blakey, chairman, president, and CEO of Rolls-Royce North America Inc., addressed the importance of diversity in STEM, as well as ways we can empower girls and underrepresented minorities to thrive in these fields.

“We simply have got to do a better job of reaching diverse groups of children early,” Blakey said. “It's one of the reasons I was so excited to learn from Vince and others that Project Lead The Way has expanded all through the grades and now includes the youngest of our kids in school, as well. Because this is how we're going to change the dynamics at the foundational level and really increase the pipeline of talented engineers for the future. Trust me, it's not just Rolls-Royce that's looking for them; everybody is out there looking for them.”

Jason Silva, futurist and Emmy-nominated host of National Geographic Channel’s series “Brain Games” inspired guests through his forward-thinking musings on technology – how we’ve created innovative tools that will only continue to get better at bringing us together and improving our lives.

“I'm extremely passionate about education. I'm passionate about human imagination, human creativity, human innovation. This has led to a passion for technology, because I truly believe that technology is the literalization of human imagination,” he said. “Technology is the embodiment of human creativity.”

Day 3

On the third day of PLTW Summit 2016, guests enjoyed a Fireside Chat between College Board President and CEO David Coleman and PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram. The two discussed the partnership between AP and PLTW and announced the upcoming launch of the AP + PLTW student recognition application process.

Addressing the partnership, Coleman said: “We chose this partnership with Project Lead The Way for several reasons. The first: It doesn't just test kids; it cultivates their excellence, it gives them skills they don't have, it opens up futures. It acts earlier than we tend to with Advanced Placement. While some students take Advanced Placement earlier in high school, Project Lead The Way has such a richer set of coursework and experiences for young people. We love the fusion of knowledge and practice.”

Following the Fireside Chat, students from Star City Public Schools shared their experiences with AP and PLTW, reflecting on how they benefitted from the integration of the programs at their school.

Day 4

In our final general session, guests heard from PLTW Engineering students from Wenatchee, Washington. The students wowed guests with the story of their downhill skis project.

To close out the festivities, guests enjoyed an inspiring message from Daymond John, co-star on ABC’s Emmy Award-winning reality business show “Shark Tank.” He addressed topics including workforce preparation, entrepreneurship, and mentorship.

In a post-keynote interview with PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram, John shared how both mentorship from educators as well as hands-on, relevant learning made an impact on his life.

John’s school counselor was “the one who realized that I had that entrepreneurial spirit,” John said. “He advised me to go into a co-op program where I would work one week and I would go to school the next. And when I started to work and I started to see this world of business, I’d then come back to school and apply that mentality to schoolwork, and then apply my schoolwork mentality to (business). And it really helped me grow.”

Find more great PLTW Summit 2016 content on PLTW’s YouTube channel, Facebook page, and blog!