Entrepreneurship in the PLTW Engineering Classroom

Jessica Klass is a PLTW Engineering Teacher at Pandora-Gilboa Local High School in Pandora, Ohio. Jessica is trained in Introduction to Engineering Design (IED), Principles of Engineering (POE), Civil Engineering and Architecture (CEA), Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM), and Digital Electronics (DE). Jessica is the director of PGE Design.

Last school year, I came up with the idea of forming an engineering club at our school. There was a lot of interest from my students who are enrolled in PLTW courses, and after our initial meeting, we formed PG Engineering Design (PGED), which consisted of approximately 20 high school students. 

Students involved with PGED use the knowledge they have learned in PLTW classes and apply it in an authentic, real-world setting. In PGED, students offer a variety of products and services to the community through engineering design and innovation. The primary focus of PGED has been selling personalized engraved drink coasters; other products include glassware, name plates, key chains, drink tokens, and wooden spoons. 

From day one, PGED has been focused on real-world experience: The students began selling custom-engraved drink coasters as a Christmas fundraiser, and so many orders flooded in that students had to complete 960 coasters in eight days. Can someone say, “Overtime?!?” 

We are running a real-life business within the four walls of our high school classroom. With that comes all of the successes and failures that are associated with engineering and entrepreneurship. Whether our laser is broken, a logo is misspelled, varnish is not drying, or we have no inventory, these students must collaborate with each other to develop solutions to issues that arise on a daily basis. This means students are learning to communicate and negotiate in a setting that truly means something. These students have ownership in their products, their services, and their business; what they do matters, and they know it. Through this experience, students are gaining invaluable experience that cannot be learned from a textbook such as leadership, communication, benefits and challenges of overtime (lots of it), teamwork, accountability, initiative, and flexibility.  

Furthermore, students are learning about real-world professional roles. When running for an officer position, students are required to answer interview questions through an online questionnaire. A panel of education and engineering professionals read their answers, and the panel selects officers based on those responses. Students in the role of project manager have put forth the effort to become experts in a specific process. Project managers must have excellent communication skills to teach others how to complete a specific job. They are also in charge of making sure that their task is completed on time and meets the quality standards we've set.  

The future of PGED is incredibly bright. With gross profits nearing $13,000, it’s amazing to see how the authenticity of a real-world business grows students into mature leaders. I’ve seen these students transform into young professionals as they learn the ins and outs of a manufacturing business. They are getting a firsthand glimpse into the real world and discovering the definition of a strong work ethic. These students are exceeding their goal to “Serve the Community through Design and Innovation,” and I look forward to guiding them in many more years of success.

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.