But students in the Project Lead the Way program at Elizabethtown High School and Metalsa combined these experiences Thursday with a tour of the company’s facility in Elizabethtown.
“It gives them a perspective they’ve never seen before,” said Justin Line, program instructor. “This tour can open their eyes to new possibilities and new career paths.”
The program, now in its second year, gives students skills he said will prove beneficial in future careers.
“This class provides the students a new way of thinking,” Line said. “The main goal is to develop problem solving, innovativeness and creativity. I try to teach them not to be constrained by guidelines so they can come out with the next big thing.”
Line said part of the learning process for the program is trying, failing and eventually succeeding.
“The students can’t be afraid to try new things,” he said. “That’s the joy of engineering. It’s figuring out how to make an idea work.”
Students in the program’s second-year class, Principles of Engineering, who toured the facility Thursday are
applying their knowledge to build Vex robotics. The recycling center robots are designed to separate three types of materials, Line said.
“I have very open guidelines,” he said. “As long as the robot does its job and it’s efficient, then I don’t care how the students got there. There’s not a design that looks the same.”
The program eventually will expand, adding another course level each year the program is in place for a total of four, said Susan Ryan, coordinator for gifted education for Elizabethtown Independent Schools. Students also earn college credits for participation at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, she said.
The program has grown in participation over its first year and now looks more proportional to the student demographic at the high school, she said. Participation has grown from 16 percent to 19 percent among the student body with 30 percent being girls and 23 percent minority students.
The program also has seen success in the End of Course exam for the class with three students scoring a 9, the top score, last year.
“They have a second math and science class,” Ryan said. “We want to impact our students’ lives further than the four years they are with us at EHS.”
The tour allows students to see robots, such as the ones they created, in action, said sophomore Maaz Hameed, who wants to be a civil engineer.
“We see a lot of different robots here,” he said. “Some robots we built in the classroom, we may see here.” Sophomore Sabrina Schwartz, the only female student in the class touring the facility, said the tour helps validate what she has learned in class. “There are a lot of commonalities between what we learn and the real world,” said Schwartz, who wants to be a biomedical engineer to help create prosthetics for wounded service members. “What we learn is what’s out there. There’s a benefit to our work.” Metalsa is the program’s sponsor at the high school and hopes the partnership will enhance the hiring pool in the future. “Right now, we have to look so far up field, we’re hoping after they get their four-year degree they will want to stay local,” said David Slade, continuing improvement coordinator for Metalsa. “The more technology increases, the more our need increases.” Slade said engineers, especially electrical, industrial and mechanical engineers, are constantly in demand at the company. While on the tour, he introduced the students to two engineers from Mexico. “To get the talents and the skills we need, we have to go that far,” he told the group. “We’d like to go down the street.” Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.