Affiliate Highlight - Spotlight on Sinclair College

April 9, 2014

At the Ohio PLTW State Conference this fall, attendees may notice more fanfare and celebration than is typical at a state conference. That’s because Sinclair Community College, the PLTW affiliate in Ohio, will celebrate its 10th year of providing affiliate support to Project Lead The Way. Affiliate assistant director P.J. Marshall says it’s a relationship Sinclair Community College is extremely proud of and wants to celebrate.

Sinclair Community College, located in Dayton, Ohio, is one of only two community colleges in the PLTW affiliate network. Since 2004, Marshall says they’ve experienced tremendous support from the college president and dean of engineering, and she credits this support for the many student- and teacher- focused initiatives Sinclair has been able to implement and improve over the course of its relationship with PLTW.

As a community college, Sinclair offers a full range of two-year degree programs, including several tracks in engineering and biomedical science that align with PLTW courses. As a result, Sinclair offers statewide, articulated college credit, the only college in Ohio to do so, Marshall says. The process is fairly simple, especially for high school students in the immediate Dayton, OH, area who receive the credit free of charge. A student fills out a form and teachers enter the student’s PLTW grades and End-of-Course Assessment scores. If the student scored a B or better and received a six or higher on the exam, Sinclair builds the student a transcript, which he or she can take to another Ohio college or university or use toward his or her degree at Sinclair.

“We offer the exact same Introduction to Engineering Design course [to our college students],” Marshall explains. “Students who successfully completed IED in high school are able to receive credit and bypass that course at Sinclair.”

A tour through the college’s facilities reveals a complete Advanced Integrated Manufacturing Center—a 1,500 square-foot model factory with state-of-the-art technology and equipment, as well as on-site experts who assist companies with Lean and Six Sigma process improvement, rapid prototyping, and CNC programming. The facility also features training stations on hydraulics, pneumatics, Programmable Logic Controllers, and automation and robotics. Marshall says this facility is the highlight of the campus tour on Engineers Day, which the college hosts annually.

Due to Sinclair’s proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the college has a strong aerospace and aviation program. “We have two different flight simulators in our Aerospace Engineering department,” Marshall says. “We let our Aerospace Engineering master teachers and summer training teachers fly in the simulator.” 

But as is typical with most affiliate partners, Marshall says her main year-round focus is the annual summer Core Training. Sinclair’s Core Training draws attendees from more than 20 states each year. And while some of that is because a teacher needs a particular class Sinclair is offering, Marshall also likes to believe it’s because they’ve built a reputation as an affiliate with a solid program that treats the attendees very well.

Getting the program to run like a well-oiled machine didn’t happen without overcoming a handful of challenges, Marshall says. One of the biggest challenges year after year was technology and making sure each teacher had software properly installed. Prior to 2010, teachers would arrive on Sunday, work through the software installation, troubleshoot issues, and still often have problems getting started on Monday morning. “In 2010, Steve [Wendel] and I sat down and decided no more Sundays. There had to be a better way.” So they teamed up with the college’s IT department, and in just a few short years, the software and teacher orientation process now runs flawlessly. “In 2010, we had four and a half pages of post-training evaluation complaints related to IT. This year, I couldn’t find one.”

So what did they do that now works so well? Marshall explains that during the one- or two-week training, teachers use Sinclair’s campus computers, which are all pre-loaded with the required software. On the first morning of training, teachers are greeted by an IT professional who is assigned to their classroom. He or she takes the teacher’s laptop and installs the software or makes sure previously installed software is operating correctly. By lunch on the first day, laptops are returned, free of glitches and ready to be used for homework. Sundays are no longer a required day, and teachers get to work first thing Monday morning, with orientation occurring during lunch instead of in the morning.

The other aspect of Core Training that Marshall likes to highlight is the level of hospitality she works to ensure. “It was ingrained in me when I started here that you take care of everyone,” she says. “So we try to accommodate every teacher’s needs. We’ve had teachers bring babies who were less than a month old, or bring their mother to take care of the child while they were in class during the day. So we bring their mom in for lunch every day. I have not met a situation where we could not accommodate someone’s special needs. We want everyone to focus on training, so we try to take care of anything that would cause stress or distract them. We tell them, ‘If you have an issue, you don’t deal with it, you give it to me. We’ll deal with it.’ And we do.”

One final point of distinction, Marshall notes, is that through a partnership with Wright State University, teachers who train at Sinclair are able to receive graduate credit.

PLTW director of school engagement, Leigh Ann McCray, says Sinclair is a driving force behind PLTW growth in Ohio. As they celebrate their 10th year with PLTW, McCray is happy to be working alongside the affiliate. “Sinclair's dedication to PLTW in Ohio is unsurpassed,” she says. “Their dedication has propelled the number of schools joining the PLTW family each year, and the quality of these programs is second to none.”