Student, Start-up, Standout

For Josh Birdwell, it started like many high school assignments. His senior capstone teacher for Engineering Design and Development asked students to pick a topic that interested them, become the expert, and design and develop a solution to the problem by the end of the course. But by the end of the course, the assignment was much more—a pilot program, now in place long-term, for Francis Tuttle Technology Center to track IT equipment including laptops, iPads and more. It would launch Birdwell and a friend into developing a small consulting firm for RFID software, now recognized by the state of Oklahoma as a small business.

“We’ve been working day in and day out to get the foundation down, make connections in the industry, and figure out our direction for the future,” said Birdwell of the new start-up business. “It’s been a tremendous learning experience for us—having to be tested and learn outside of the classroom in the real world.”

Birdwell is a strong testament to a high school graduate who knows what he wants to do in life. He’ll be entering Oklahoma State University as a freshman in just a few weeks with a declared major in electrical engineering and a minor in entrepreneurship. He says he has his high school Project Lead The Way (PLTW) courses to thank for his success. The PLTW engineering program is offered at Francis Tuttle Technology Center for students interested in pursuing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field after high school graduation. The senior capstone class was the last in a series of PLTW courses Birdwell took over the course of his high school career. Others included Principles of Engineering, Digital Electronics and Computer Integrated Manufacturing.

Birdwell will tell his success story to the largest gathering of school counselors and administrators at the 45th Annual Oklahoma Career and Technology Education Summer Conference in Oklahoma City tomorrow. He, along with PLTW Senior Director of School Engagement Robin Schott, will talk about his high school experience and what has led him along his path of success. Together they’ll talk about the importance of preparing students for a STEM workforce. It’s estimated that just 6% of college graduates hold a degree in a STEM field, despite a U.S. Department of Labor projection that by 2018 there will be 1.2 million new job openings in STEM.

Birdwell and Schott’s presentation is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. at the Cox Convention Center downtown Oklahoma City. Media is invited to interview Birdwell and/or Schott after the presentation.