Wichita State awards $200,000 to fund K-12 engineering classes
Wichita State University’s College of Engineering is awarding $200,000 in grants to 11 area school districts to support engineering education programs at the K-12 level. This will allow nine districts – including Wichita Public Schools – to offer engineering curriculum at the K-5 level for the first time during the 2014-15 school year.
Grant money provided by the state through the University Engineering Initiative Act, passed in 2011, will be used by the WSU College of Engineering to allow school districts to teach curriculum from Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a national program that has expanded the number of schools offering engineering courses from seven in 2007-08 to 88 in 2013-14. The grant was part of an effort to boost the state’s economy by addressing a shortage of engineering graduates.
Since 2008, the College of Engineering has provided more than $2.2 million in funds to support engineering education programs in local school districts. Grant money distributed by the College of Engineering was previously funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Knight Foundation. This is the second year that state money has funded PLTW programs.
School districts receiving grants for the 2014-15 year include Wichita Public Schools, the Wichita Catholic Diocese and the Circle, Derby, Goddard, Hillsboro, Hutchinson, Kingman-Norwich, Newton, Remington and Valley Center school districts.
PLTW engineering classes funded by WSU were originally introduced at area high schools in 2007, and then expanded to middle schools in 2009. The latest expansion provides elementary schools with PLTW curriculum that aligns with Common Core State Standards for math and language arts, so engineering lessons can be incorporated into core instruction.
Lawrence Whitman, associate dean of WSU’s College of Engineering, says introducing engineering concepts at the elementary level is essential to developing future engineers.
“A critical time in learning math and gaining confidence is between elementary and middle schools – especially for girls,” said Whitman. “As engineering makes interesting mathematical and science concepts, students learn that math can be fun and engaging. Maintaining this interest through the K-12 years keeps engineering and science as an option for a career and for further study.”
To learn more about Project Lead The Way and other K-12 outreach initiatives of the WSU College of Engineering, visit www.wichita.edu/engineeringK12outreach.