Program offers engineering sampler

Keegan Ilenda presented the lake house design to a group of engineers Wednesday night. The one story house includes a large kitchen, living room, and sun room, built to client specifications. Ilenda's plans include initial sketches and computer r...

Keegan Ilenda presented the lake house design to a group of engineers Wednesday night.

The one story house includes a large kitchen, living room, and sun room, built to client specifications. Ilenda's plans include initial sketches and computer renderings of the finished project.

The house, however, will never be built.

Ilenda's client, like the junior who developed the design, is a student at Superior High School. The house design is an assignment for a principals of engineering class.

Teachers and students in SHS' pre-engineering program invited engineers to the high school Wednesday to talk about the future of the school's Project Lead the Way program.


Project Lead the Way is a national nonprofit organization that promotes pre-engineering curriculum in middle and high schools. The program is designed to give students a taste of the rigors of engineering classes before they begin college.

SHS' pre-engineering curriculum received national certification from Project Lead the Way in spring. Students taking SHS's four Project Lead the Way classes this fall have the opportunity to earn college credit if they score well on a test and attend one of the affiliated engineering schools.

Last winter, Project Lead the Way teachers went to the community's engineers for help in filling out its certification application. Now the teachers are asking for financial support and guidance for the classes. Teachers need to know what skills employers are looking for in order to offer students the right classes and introduce them to opportunities in the area, said Richard O'Hearn, SHS teacher.

The district's original grant from the Kern Family Foundation, a $55,000 start-up grant, runs out this year. The state included $500,000 in its budget to support Project Lead the Way programs, which amounts to about $4,100 per school. The state's support is encouraging, but the funding doesn't even cover the software needed to offer these classes, which costs $4,300 per year, O'Hearn said.

This fall SHS added civil engineering -- its fourth Project Lead the Way course. Enrollment in the program is growing with about 100 students taking the courses this fall.

Project Lead the Way has developed four additional classes including one on aerospace and another on biotechnology this year. SHS could offer some of these classes if it had the funding and teachers knew which classes are best to offer, O'Hearn said.

With declining enrollment and faculty cuts at SHS, the district cannot afford to expand the program for next year, said principal Kent Bergum.

O'Hearn also is working with teachers at Superior Middle School to get a gateway to technology class started there to introduce engineering at the middle school level.


A middle school program would introduce students to the rigors of an engineering class, so they're prepared for the classes available in high school, he said.

Businesses would be prepared to support the program with leadership roles and funding if the school would offer more specifics about what it needs, said Dan Peterson of Amsoil.

Visiting engineers suggested the school come to them seeking money for specific projects or classes or set up a foundation to support the pre-engineering program in general. They also advised teachers about the best time to make their requests best fit businesses' budgetary calendars.

The need for technology-oriented young people in this area in coming years is big, Peterson said.

The perception is that young people need to move away from the Twin Ports to get a good job. But several companies are looking for workers in this area. High school pre-engineering classes with connections to local companies can help change some of those perceptions, said Charlie Glazman of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

One way to change that perception is with internships. Amsoil has used interns at both high school and college levels, Peterson said.

The questions about the future of engineering classes come amid questions about the school's graduation requirements in general.

The district is considering increasing the number of math and science credits required for graduation. Current students are required to take two credits each of math and science, said Mary Anne Korsch, curriculum director.


Research shows that future careers will require more math and science knowledge. The district is exploring whether its required limits truly prepare students for life after high school. Administrators also are exploring whether the pre-engineering classes could be counted as either math or science courses, she said.

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail .

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