Expanding PLTW in New Milford Public Schools

Erin Lucia teaches PLTW courses Principles of Engineering and Civil Engineering and Architecture, AP Physics 2, and 7-12 physics and mathematics in New Milford, Connecticut. Erin was a 2015 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) Connecticut state finalist and enjoys home renovation. 

Co-author Brad Jones teaches PLTW courses Introduction to Engineering Design and Engineering Design and Development, as well as K-6 and 9-12 earth science and physics in New Milford, Connecticut. Brad enjoys farming and hiking.

New Milford High School in northwestern Connecticut adopted PLTW Engineering in 2012. At the program’s inception, the goal of NMHS was to have a small but successful program. In 2012, we expected to offer one section of IED but instead offered three due to student demand. In four years, the program expanded to offering a total of five courses over 10 sections of PLTW and has maintained an average female enrollment of 26 percent. The one small PLTW classroom at NMHS has grown into two larger full-time PLTW classrooms and a dedicated makerspace. The makerspace houses a CNC machine, laser engraver, two 3-D printers, as well as an assortment of tools all at our students’ fingertips.

A direct result of the passion of our teachers, support from the community, and enthusiasm of our students, New Milford Public Schools has added the PLTW Launch and PLTW Gateway programs. We currently have 20 percent of our students in grades K-12 enrolled in PLTW courses with a total female enrollment of 36 percent. Just recently, a makerspace was created at the middle school, which will also allow for 3-D printing and laser cutting opportunities for the middle school students.

When reflecting on the surprising outcomes of adding PLTW, we discussed the new professionalism teachers and students bring to class each day. This setting has allowed our PLTW students to gain confidence and take pride in their designs. Most recently, students in the Engineering Design and Development course presented their work to the District’s Committee on Learning. Projects titles included Power Pack, U-Desk, Coin Sorter, Reboost, and Cooking Oil Spray Protection System. EDD students were well prepared, professional, and passionate about their work.

In addition, community members have supported the PLTW program and have donated funds for four consecutive years, providing 3-D printers, laser engravers, the CNC machine, tools, and more, which allows the EDD students to fabricate working prototypes. Local engineers have also played an invaluable role in mentoring the senior EDD students.

Watching the students apply skills learned in PLTW courses is rewarding for all, and the NMPS PLTW program is endlessly continuing to inspire our K-12 students.

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.