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Webster City school certifies in Project Lead the Way

Students learn new engineering skills

May 31, 2010
By EMILIE NELSON, Messenger staff writer

WEBSTER CITY - More than 350,000 students participate in Project Lead the Way certified courses across the nation each year, and some of the newest to be among them are students at Webster City High School.

Project Lead the Way is a program used in middle and high schools throughout the United States to introduce students to the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program helps students develop problem solving and critical thinking skills while providing a foundation to be successful in careers related to PLTW subjects.

Webster City High School currently offers three engineering courses: bioengineering, engineering design and principles of engineering to allow students to explore their interests in the field.

Article Photos

Webster City High School juniors Cameron White, left and Mason Hedeen, right, work on constructing a wind turbine in Ayn Ecklund’s bioengineering class. Webster City High School recently became certified in Project Lead the Way, which will allow students to earn up to four semesters of transferable college engineering credit while still in high school.

"We'll also offer architecture and civil engineering classes next year," said Ayn Ecklund, instructor for the bioengineering course.

To become certified, Ecklund said the school had to meet certain guidelines, such as having enough computers equipped with inventor and 3-D programs and nationally certified PLTW teachers. Over the past few years, students have also had to keep detailed portfolios of their work in PLTW related courses before national Project Lead the Way representatives came to visit the school, observe classes and interview students.

"They came and spent the day with the students," said Ecklund.

Throughout the year, students have studied a variety of topics from forensic science to alternative energy. They have inserted DNA into bacteria, designed mechanical marble sorters and made artificial joints and carbon dioxide-powered cars. The final project of the year for Ecklund's students has been to design a working wind turbine from leftover items found around the classroom.

The two groups of students have used everything from cardboard to pop bottles to water pump motors to make the miniature turbines. If working correctly, the blades of the turbines turn, lighting up a set of LED lights.

With the projects requiring a lot of creativity and critical thinking in a group setting, students said they have also acquired teamwork skills.

"When you get a lot of people working together like this things really start to flow together," said junior Cameron White.

Now that Webster City High School is PLTW certified, students will be able to receive both high school and college credit when they take the courses. The credits will transfer to both Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.

"They can have up to four semesters of college engineering credit when they graduate if they start the classes their freshman year," said Ecklund.

Ecklund said she would also like to work with local businesses and companies to implement an internship program where students can get hands-on experience in what they have learned.

"We'd like to bring these students back into the community someday and bring that knowledge with them," she said.

Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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