Glacier expands engineering options

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Glacier High School is ramping up a new engineering program for next school year.

The school is expanding course offerings to create a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy using Project Lead The Way’s Pathway to Engineering curriculum.

Project Lead The Way is a national nonprofit and a frontrunner in providing innovative curriculum.

Glacier’s Engineering Academy will introduce students to a sequence of engineering courses. Classes utilize hands-on projects and real-world problem-solving designed to complement traditional math and science courses.

On Monday, Glacier’s academic showcase night included sessions outlining the engineering program.

Assistant Principal Lance Labrum said this would be the first time the school has implemented an engineering curriculum on this scale.

“We had a lot of interest,” Labrum said. “Our hopes are high.”

Project Lead the Way courses will be implemented over three years starting with introductory foundation courses for the 2013-14 school year. Introduction to Engineering and Design will be offered to freshmen through seniors with no prerequisites. Additionally, a foundation class called Principles of Engineering will be offered to sophomores through seniors.

Students who complete foundation courses may then more specialized courses during the 2014-15 school year. Proposed classes include Aerospace Engineering, Civil Engineering and Architecture, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing.

By 2015-16, students who have taken foundation and specialized courses may complete the program by taking a capstone course in Engineering Design and Development.

“This course wraps up everything they’ve learned,” Labrum said.

Labrum said administrators selected the Project Lead The Way curriculum because it is designed for all students.

“It’s not necessarily geared toward AP [Advanced Placement] or gifted students,” Labrum said. “You start with the foundation and move up through the program. The projects are designed to help apply critical thinking skills. I’d like to see all students take this on.”

Technology education teacher Andy Fors will teach Introduction to Engineering and Design. He will attend a two-week training institute this summer to learn the curriculum.

“We’re trying to find ways to get our students interested in this, give them more knowledge and experience in career fields related to STEM,” Fors said.

The school currently offers a few engineering courses such as an entry-level engineering technology course taught by Fors.

Fors also has taught Computer Aided Drafting, Computer Aided Machining and Computer Numeric Control and said many of the new engineering courses will use the same technologies and machinery, such as the school’s automated milling machines, 3-D scanner and laser engraver.

Project Lead The Way curriculum is different from traditional instruction where typically an assignment is given with step-by-step directions. The new engineering classes emphasize the process, not just the outcome, in its activities, projects and problem-based learning.

“The process is more of an open-ended format. Instead of giving a set of directions with a final outcome, we identify a problem and they [students] work through what those steps are in the design process to determine the solution to a problem,” Fors said, noting that, just as in the real world, students may have to “go back to the drawing board” and re-evaluate those steps if they don’t reach a solution.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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