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Pre-engineering curriculum in works for Waubun school

Thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Kern Family Foundation, Waubun-Ogema-White Earth school district will implement Project Lead the Way into the junior and senior high curriculums starting next fall.

Project Lead the Way is a non-profit organization focused on introducing and preparing middle and high school students for engineering and technical careers of the future. The courses involved aim to instill problem-solving, teamwork, communication, and leadership skills in students, as well as help them improve their math, science, and technology skills, preparing them to succeed in tomorrow's careers.

PLTW was first introduced in 1997 with 12 upstate New York high schools. Now programs are offered in 2,000 schools in 47 states, educating 175,000 students.

There are two sets of pre-engineering curricula and courses available to schools: Pathway to Engineering (for high school) and Gateway to Technology (for middle school). The Pathways curriculum consists of course work in Principles of Engineering, Introduction to Engineering Design, Digital Electronics, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Civil Engineering and Architecture, Aerospace Engineering, and Biotechnical Engineering.

The Gateway program consists of Design and Modeling, The Magic of Electrons, Automation and Robotics, The Science of Technology, and Flight & Space.

The teacher training program is unique in that every course offered requires the instructor to attend a two week "boot camp" during the summer prior to implementation. There will also be ongoing assessments of teachers and students to assure a quality program.

Another commitment schools make in becoming part of the PLTW network is forming a Partnership Team composed of mentors, coaches, and advisors from business and industry, colleges, and the community. The Partnership Team meets several times a year and assists the teachers in the program in solving operational problems with the curriculum.

Business and industry partners may also donate supplies and equipment to local schools. If you would be interested in serving on this Partnership Team please contact Waubun High School. For more information on Project Lead the Way, please visit their web site

Seeing our country's severe shortage of engineers and technical employees, the Kern Family Foundation has offered to help fund PLTW schools in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa. Mr. and Mrs. Kern, now 81, founded the generator company Generac Power Systems, Inc.

Bob Kern created the company while tinkering in a rented garage. They now employ 2,000 people in three factories in Wisconsin and one in Iowa. He and his wife are now providing millions of dollars of personal wealth into a private foundation that is encouraging reform in engineering education, starting in the Midwest.

As a nation, we need 114,000 engineering graduates each year and according to the Department of Labor, and we currently graduate 65,000.

Because of this generous grant from the Kern Foundation, Waubun High School will begin implementing Project Lead the Way courses next fall with the 2008-2009 school year. One of the first courses to be offered will be the Gateway to Technology program in the seventh and eighth grades.

At the senior high level, two new elective courses will be offered: Introduction to Engineering Design (which will use the CAD program Autodesk Inventor), and for a limited time, Gateway to Technology (a more rigorous version of the junior high program).

Additional courses will be offered in subsequent years as the instructors complete the necessary trainings. There will also be opportunities to take high school Project Lead the Way electives for college credit.

Considering the growing shortage of engineers and technical workers, Waubun High School is excited to offer this opportunity to their students.