Leading the Way to Engineering

A new grant-funded program at Corcoran High School aims to inspire students to pursue engineering careers.

Project Lead the Way is a math and science college preparatory program featuring two courses that introduce high school students to the field of engineering. Students in the program are also eligible to earn up to three college credits.

“Since 75 percent of the program is hands-on, the kids get really interested to see how math and science are really used,” said technology teacher Ryan Terpening.

Class is held in the newest computer lab in the Syracuse school district. Students have access to 25 computers equipped with design software, robotic construction sets and a 3-D printer that enables students to build three-dimensional models of their designs from plastic.

“Students are continuously challenging themselves,” Terpening said. “They are teaching me a lot as we go through the process.”

Last year, students made robots that sorted marbles by color and learned how to design products using 3-D computer modeling software.

“It is so fun, it really doesn’t feel like work,” said junior AJ Lloyd, 16.

He broke open his Rubik’s Cube to figure out how it worked so he could design and program it to solve itself.

This year, Lloyd is designing a chess set that he will be able to fabricate using the 3-D printer. He plans to donate the set to an elementary school to gain his Eagle Scout Badge.

Project Lead the Way is quickly gaining popularity with Corcoran students. Since the start of the program in January 2009, participation has quintupled, from 15 to 76 students. Next year, Terpening hopes to double the involvement and diversify the program by recruiting more female students and by adding a third course.

Despite the program’s success, the federal Advance Placement Incentive Program Grant runs out in September, which will leave the school at risk of losing the engineering program. Corcoran High School is actively seeking new grants and donors for support.

When students in Terpening’s Principles of Engineering class were asked what they wanted to do after high school, more than half of the 12 students said they wanted to be engineers.
Senior Vladimir Pechenyy plans to study engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology or Syracuse University in the fall.

“It’s one of those classes that you can look forward to,” Pechenyy said. “I am glad I got a chance to take it before I graduate.”