WSU Foundation lands $2M Knight Foundation grant
A $2 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with the help of Wichita State University’s College of Engineering, will allow for the expansion of Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a pre-engineering curriculum and teacher training program for middle and high school students. The program currently is in three Wichita high schools.
Elizabeth King, WSU Foundation president and CEO, announced the approval of the grant on Sept. 15.
Kansas is facing an alarming shortage of engineers and Senate President Stephen Morris issued a challenge to universities to double the number of engineering graduates during the next five years. Wichita aviation companies need about 300 new engineers every year. WSU, with the aid of the Knight Foundation, will help meet that challenge.
“What appeals to the Knight Foundation is that this project will make technology and critical thinking central to more students’ lives. Project Lead the Way will equip students with the skills in science, technology, engineering and math needed to work in our leading industries. Preparing the workforce for the 21st century is key to our region’s success and is part of our overall grantmaking strategy for Wichita and Sedgwick County,” said Anne Corriston, program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
“The Knight Foundation gift will enable the Wichita State University College of Engineering to transform the lives of many youngsters in Sedgwick County, broaden participation in the engineering profession as well as build the 21st century workforce for the aerospace industry and beyond,” said Zulma Toro-Ramos, dean of the College of Engineering, “in this way contributing to maintain the standard of living in the city of Wichita and the state of Kansas.”
The Knight Foundation grant will help expand Project Lead the Way into 18 middle schools and increase the number of high schools from three to nine. It will provide the money to help the schools buy necessary equipment and computer software.
Middle school students will have opportunities to visit WSU and its College of Engineering, gain exposure to and experience in various teaching labs and meet WSU faculty and students. Some of the courses they will study are design and modeling, magic of electrons and automation and robotics.
At the high school level, opportunities will exist for students to gain college credit through PLTW coursework and take college courses at WSU while still in high school. Those courses include introduction to engineering design, principles of engineering and digital electronics.
In facing such a critical need for engineers, the state’s aviation industry looks to the WSU College of Engineering to take a leadership role in growing this pipeline of future engineers.