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FCCTC program first of its kind in Pa. to be certified

June 13, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- The Franklin County Career and Technology Center recently became the first career and technology center in Pennsylvania to have its pre-engineering program certified by Project Lead the Way.

Pre-engineering courses have been taught for four years at the center, which serves the six school districts in the county, said Shawn Eckenrode, who teaches in that program along with electronics technology. Project Lead the Way (PLTW) completed the certification audit in May, he said.

Project Lead the Way is a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with schools to establish high-technology educational programs and increase the number of engineers, according to its Web site. The program was first introduced a decade ago in a dozen New York schools, but is now in about 2,000 in almost every state, according to the Web site.

Eckenrode said a dozen students took the course this past year, which consists of several different courses:

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· Principles of Engineering allows students to explore how math, science and technology help people.

· Introduction to Engineering Design uses three-dimensional computer modeling software to teach the design process, including developing, analyzing and creating product models.

· Digital Electronics uses computer simulation to teach about the logic of electronics through designing, testing and constructing electronic circuits and devices.

· Computer Integrated Manufacturing teaches concepts of robotics and automated manufacturing by creating three-dimensional designs and producing models of those designs.

· Engineering Design and Development takes students teams and community mentors through the process of researching, designing and building solutions to engineering problems.

"That's what a lot of the curriculum is about - taking a problem and finding a solution," Eckenrode said.

Project Lead the Way wants to promote more interest in the engineering profession in general and to get more females and minorities involved in engineering, said Eckenrode, who has taught at the center for a decade. This past year, those enrolled included one female and one Hispanic student, he said.

A significant benefit for students in the program is that they can earn up to nine college credits from Penn State University, Eckenrode said.

Along with Eckenrode, precision machining instructor Jim Olson and mathematics teacher Bill Brooks have taken the required training for the certification process.

"We send the teachers to training at our cost and purchase the materials and equipment (specified by PLTW) at our cost," said James Duffey, the director of the center. The center performed well enough in the certification audit, however, that PLTW is giving it a $10,000 grant to purchase a special printer to be used for three-dimensional modeling, he said.

While a few high schools have been certified in pre-engineering by PLTW, Franklin County has the only career and technology center to be certified, Eckenrode said.

Like consumer electronics, cars and other products, Eckenrode said the United States is relying too heavily on imports of human capital, as well.

"We keep importing engineers from other countries and we should be growing them here," he said.

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