Project Lead the Way seeing student success

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 9, 2015

Local young people have the opportunity to get a head start on preparing for careers in science and engineering by participating in Project Lead the Way’s engineering and biomedical science programs. Offered through Collins Career and Technical Center, PLTW provides eighth through 12th grade students with hands-on learning experience in biomedical science and engineering. The program is offered in five high schools in Lawrence County.

“Presently we have over 400 students in the county in the program,” said Gary Salyer, who works with students as they transition from the program to college.

The program focuses on training students to analyze problems and work with other students to solve problems.

“It’s left to the students to solve the problems,” said Salyer. “They’re figuring it out themselves.”

Instead of learning strictly textbook-based math or science, students are introduced to real world problems that require mathematics and science to solve.

“The kids love it,” said Salyer.

In PLTW, educators create scenarios where students will need to rely on a number of problem-solving skills and will be walked through educational units relating to the scenarios. By focusing on teaching math and science in a hands-on way, the program aims to prepare students for careers where they will have to solve problems on their own.

“It’s totally work-related and hands on,” said Salyer. “The administration at each of the (program’s schools) sees the benefits of the program.”

This year the program saw the first group of students who had completed the PLTW program graduate from college.

So far the program has had 121 graduates go on to pursue careers in science, engineering or the military.

“Those numbers are powerful,” said Salyer.

Sarah Mayo, a recent graduate of Marietta College’s petroleum engineering program and a former PLTW student, believes being involved in the program has had a positive impact on her life.

“The basic engineering skills that I learned in PLTW courses helped me prepare for the engineering courses that I took in college,” said Mayo. “The knowledge I gained through my PLTW classes was invaluable in helping me select petroleum engineering as my field of study.”

The program challenged Mayo to figure out solutions to problems on her own and taught her how to collaborate with other students, skills that Mayo said helped her during college and her transition to her career.

Mayo credits her teachers from PLTW with helping her choose a course of study in college.

“They guided me through creative projects and encouraged me to explore numerous career paths,” said Mayo. “They were a constant source of guidance and support.”

Now employed as a drilling engineer with Chevron in Houston, Texas, Mayo continues to rely on what she learned in the program.

“As I begin a new job, I find myself still using many of the skills I learned” said Mayo.

When Mayo moved away for college, the staff stayed in contact with her and encouraged her to continue pursuing her degree.

“I was deeply touched to have teachers from Project Lead the Way…remain in constant contact with me throughout college,” said Mayo. “Project Lead the Way is definitely one caring, supporting program that touches and can change lives.”