Students Kick-off PLTW Engineering Design & Development Capstone Projects with Business Mentors

Over 275 high school seniors from 28 schools across Missouri and Kansas gathered this week to kick-off their school year in Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Engineering Design & Development (EDD). The day-long workshop was hosted by KC STEM Alliance, which is a network of educators, business partners, and organizations that are working to build a pipeline of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals in the Kansas City community.

At the workshop, each team of students worked with a mentor from the business community to complete the first part of the design process, which is to clearly define and justify a problem. Some students already had an idea, but for the teams that were undecided, mentors from 19 companies volunteered their time and expertise to facilitate constructive brainstorming sessions.

At the end of the brainstorm exercises, students had a long list of problems they wanted to solve such as having no time for breakfast at school, not enough space in their lockers, or not wanting to fuel up their car so often.

EDD is the capstone course in the PLTW engineering K-12 pathway. EDD students identify an issue and then research, design, and test a solution, and many students have solved real challenges in their PLTW classroom. For example, a group of Liberty High School students in Wentzville, Missouri, created a custom wheelchair for a toddler with spina bifida. The skills PLTW students develop throughout the engineering design process are in high-demand.

“We have companies asking on their job applications if you’ve had PLTW,” said PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram, who spoke with students before they networked with STEM professionals to learn more about their career paths. “Can you think of any other K-12 experience employers care about? It’s because our students have that mindset to think creatively and innovatively.”

The KC STEM Alliance supports PLTW with teacher training, networking events, and student events, including an annual showcase for senior capstone projects in PLTW Engineering and PLTW Biomedical Science. Since its beginning in 2011, KC STEM Alliance has provided access to PLTW for thousands of students in the Kansas City region.

“We partner with Project Lead The Way because we know it works,” said Martha McCabe, executive director of KC STEM Alliance. “These students are getting inspired to go into STEM fields in our community.”

Students will spend the school year working on their projects, going through many iterations, and finally present them at the annual showcase in the spring. See what past EDD students have presented here, including a shock absorber for football players.

Stay current on Vince’s travels – and the latest in education and workforce development news – by following him on Twitter at @VinceBertram.