Imagine a car that could morph its shape based on the driver’s whims. What if satellites had metallike skins that could repair themselves from damage in space? What if old high-rise buildings could be turned into vertical farms to help fight world hunger? Picture a 3D cell-phone screen strapped to your wrist. How about turning pond scum into green fuel? Or rearranging the molecules of your blood to fight off deadly diseases? These and countless other life-changing innovations are taking shape in labs, in test tubes and on computer screens around the world. But they all have one thing in common: they all come from an engineer’s or scientist’s imagination. Right now there’s a classroom in your school where students can begin to dream up tomorrow’s wonders – a remarkable space of imagination, innovation and learning that could only be called a Project Lead the Way Innovation Zone.
What if there were a class where curiosity ruled? Where you learned not only how things worked, but how you might make them work better. Where the biggest challenge was between you and your imagination. What if that classroom were filled with the latest design software, advanced materials and cutting-edge equipment – a place buzzing with project-based assignments, like programming robots, exploring nanotechnology and building 3D models? And while you were exploring, examining and experimenting, you were actually building a foundation in the most vital fields of learning and essential professions needed in the world today and tomorrow. It’s what teachers call STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. If you were in a class like that, you’d be experiencing an exciting approach to education that fuels imaginative thinking and creative problem solving – just the skills that help you succeed in your education and beyond. You’d be a PLTW student learning a lot and having a lot of fun learning in the Innovation Zone.
The PLTW program is designed to serve middle school students of diverse backgrounds, helping them all to become high school, college and career ready, from those already interested in STEM-related fields to those who are more inspired by the application of STEM than they are by traditional math and science courses. PLTW classes are taught in school during the school day, and every PLTW instructor receives extensive training as well as ongoing support in the courses they teach. While the STEM subject matter is rigorous, the approach is never rigid. That’s because the PLTW program provides a flexible curriculum platform, which schools can customize to meet the specific needs of their academic environment.
The PLTW Gateway To Technology Program is taught in conjunction with a rigorous academic curriculum. The hands-on project-based program is divided into six independent nine-week units. Students envision, design and test their ideas with the same advanced modeling software used by companies like Lockheed Martin, Intel and Sprint. They study mechanical and computer control systems. Think robotics and animation. Students also explore the importance of energy, including innovative ways to reduce, conserve and produce it using solar, thermal and wind power. The knowledge that students gain and the skills they build from the Gateway To Technology Program create a strong foundation for further STEM learning, from nanotechnology to applied engineering.