For many middle and high school students, the math and science components of a major in engineering may look intimidating. But one program is trying to change the equation and perception.
Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Engineering has partnered with Project Lead The Way (PLTW) to encourage students to explore and enjoy engineering. Using the program’s STEM-centered, K-12 curriculum, the college has trained nearly 700 teachers over the past six years. Those teachers inspire thousands of students to pursue higher education.
During sessions from July to August, middle and high school teachers from across the state came to Cal Poly Pomona and learned how to teach courses in everything from design and development to robotics and crime-scene analysis. The college hopes the courses will motivate the next generation of engineers.
Being able to present difficult concepts in an engaging way makes a significant difference in the classroom, teachers say. In the Principles of Engineering session, teachers designed, programmed and built a marble sorter. When their students build their own marble sorter in class, the teachers will be able to give advice and feedback. The chance for a learn-by-doing experience is priceless, according to first-time participant Bryan Davis.
“A lot of kids don’t get to build anything,” says Davis, who is a math teacher at Healdsburg High School. “Giving them the opportunity to build something for a reason is huge. They get to do something different and it gets them excited about school.”
Ramona Martinez, a math instructor at Grand Terrace High School, agrees. In the Introduction to Engineering session, she used a computer program to model a 3-D puzzle that she created – something that she’ll show her students how to do, developing their problem-solving skills while having fun at the same time.
“The projects are going to bring it all together for them,” Martinez says. “We’re going to teach them the skills, and they’re going to be able to use them right away.”
PLTW is a nonprofit organization. Cal Poly Pomona’s PLTW training program is self-supported and has received generous funding from Boeing and the Sempra Energy Foundation