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Engineering classes now offer college credits
March 1, 2010

Project Lead the Way classes among the many that offer college credit

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

DASSEL-COKATO, MN – Two years after its inception at Dassel-Cokato High School, Project Lead the Way is not only gaining momentum among students, but also is available for college credits.

The goal of Project Lead the Way curriculum is to “prepare students to be the most innovative and productive leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to make meaningful, pioneering contributions to our world,” according to the program’s web site.

Derek Levno and Steve Ellis are the high school instructors for the two Project Lead the Way courses currently being offered, Introduction to Engineering and Design, and Principles of Engineering.

Students in middle school also have the opportunity to take Gateway to Technology courses, which is the Project Lead the Way curriculum for grades five through eight.

The high school recently received a provisional certification making it possible for Project Lead the Way students who pass the course exam to be eligible for college credit.

Though interest in the course is growing, Levno thinks many students assume it’s an ordinary shop class since he and Ellis are teaching the Project Lead the Way classes.

“It’s designed to be a higher-level thinking class for college-bound students – it’s not a shop class,” Levno said.

The curriculum is designed to get students excited about engineering and consider going into the field, he explained.

“The majority of engineers come from overseas and that’s a problem. We should be manufacturing our own goods here, rather than shipping them to China,” Levno said.

The high school’s registration guide explains the courses as “pre-engineering curriculum centered on developing better problem-solving skills by immersing students in real world engineering problems.”

The courses are project-based and hands-on, which is what students like Mark Nowak like about the class.

Nowak is currently in Principles of Engineering, with Levno.

In this class, students just completed a mousetrap car exercise. The purpose was to build a car and have it powered solely by the mousetrap.

Students used Inventor software (similar to CAD) to make a three-dimensional model of their car and constructed it using a mousetrap and materials they brought from home.

Students were judged on distance, power, and accuracy.

Before signing up for the class, Nowak considered taking the introduction class, where students learn the process of product design using computer software.

Nowak, however, wanted to do more hands-on work.

“It’s a little tougher, but I don’t think it’s that bad,” he said.

Nowak is considering a career in the medical field, with possibly an emphasis on engineering.

He recommends students sign up for a Project Lead the Way class because “it’s a good learning experience . . . and it’s a really fun class.”

“It’s not just a shop class. I think it’s for everybody,” he added.

Next trimester, Nowak is registered for Digital Electronics, also known as Robotics.

“It’s a lot like Legos,” he commented.

Girls are also encouraged to give Project Lead the Way classes a shot because, as Hailey Peterson said, “it’s a lot of fun.”

“Reading the registration guide, it seems like you wouldn’t want to take it, especially if you are a girly-girl,” Peterson said, “but you learn a lot.”

Peterson is looking at a career in forensic engineering.

Other courses offer college credits

Students can also earn college credit through Advanced Placement courses.

Other programs, like the Certified Nursing Assistant program, offers college credits along with College English and chemistry, according to Dean Jennissen, high school principal.

There are also career and technical education credits offered through Family and Consumer Science, business, industrial technology, and agriculture courses

For students and parents to learn more about how to receive college credits, an informational meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 11 at 7 p.m. in the high school choir room.


 

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