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Using the Design Process for Engineering Partnerships

Bradley Hardin has been in the education profession for 22 years. He has worked in Career and Technical Education (CTE) for 10 years, first as a teacher and now as an assistant principal working with Denver Public Schools. Bradley’s passion is promoting STEM programs and education to girls and students of color. He teaches at John F. Kennedy High School in Denver, Colorado.

Business partnerships are a key way to increase your PLTW program’s funding as well as provide students a way to interact with companies. Businesses can also serve as advisers for curriculum decisions.

What are the best strategies to develop partnerships that will last?

Using the Engineering Design Cycle, we can think of developing partnerships as the four phases of the cycle: Design, Build, Test, and Improve.


During this design phase, think of specific things you want from a partner. How much time, how many resources, and what knowledge and skills do you need to make this a success? What is it, exactly, that you want from this partner? Plus, what will the partner receive from the school?

Most of the time, if your design includes all components of what you are looking for from your future partnership, it will have a greater chance for success. Business want to see a detailed plan.


Partners can be developed from people within your school site, students and/or their families, smaller local businesses, and professional, faith, and civic organizations. You will need to do a “pitch,” where you sit down with the potential partner and show them your plan. The more details you can provide, the easier it will be for them to see themselves helping you. Businesses are not educators. They are in business. They need to see the plan, and you need to educate them about how they can become your partner.


Once the design is created and you have built your plan, you now need to implement the partnership. Someone must be tasked with organizing the logistics of the partnership, whether that be times and dates partners meet with students, transportation, or other things.


This phase is key, as data can be collected and used for the next idea for another partnership. How many students participated in the last partnership? What were the results? All of these pieces of information can be utilized during the next design phase for the next partner. People like to hear success stories, so use this data to show how you are impacting students with these partnerships.

I hope you received some ideas to help you as you make your way through the process of developing partnerships.

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