PLTW Alumnus Spotlight: Helaena Pfeiffer

For nearly 25 years, PLTW has offered transformative classroom and learning experiences for PreK-12 students. Now, many of those students are professionals in STEM fields. We recently reached out to several PLTW alumni to learn more about their educational and career journeys and find out what advice they have for current PLTW students. If you are a PLTW alumnus interested in sharing your story, we’d love to hear from you here.

Helaena Pfeiffer lives in Haubstadt, Indiana, and interned at Toyota while attending Tennessee Tech University for mechanical engineering. In high school, she completed Introduction to Engineering Design and Principles of Engineering courses in the PLTW Engineering program.

In what grades did you participate in PLTW? What were some of your most memorable experiences from PLTW?

I participated in PLTW my freshman and senior years of high school. Some of my most memorable experiences through PLTW were teaching CAD programs to elementary school students , assisting as a counselor at STEM camps for elementary school and middle school students, and presenting 3D printing at the Nashville Mini Maker Faire in 2017.

What did your journey look like to get to where you are today?

I graduated from North High School in Evansville, Indiana, and interned at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana through the Engineering Development Program. I am currently a freshman at Tennessee Tech University where I am studying mechanical engineering.

What did you do as an intern?

At Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, I was an intern through the Engineering Development Program. During the first week of my internship, I attended classes learning about the Toyota Way and Toyota Production Systems and received basic safety training. Also, I spent a week in each section of the plant shadowing team leaders, engineers, maintenance team members, and occasionally working on the line. In addition, my internship at Toyota involved using statistical methods to analyze data and identify areas that need to be improved. This analysis was important to the quality of Lexus vehicles.

What did you learn in PLTW that still helps you today?

Some of the major things that I learned in my PLTW courses that I still use every day are spatial reasoning and creative problem solving. Introduction to Engineering Design course had a big impact on my ability to reverse engineer machines to see how they should work and why they aren't working, and then use basic, available objects to temporarily fix a machine until a long-term solution could be found.

Do you have any advice for current PLTW students?  

My advice for current PLTW students is to take the class seriously. Even if you aren't planning to become an engineer, the classes can still teach you valuable skills for any career field that you choose to enter.