IGNITE - Fall 2018 Fall 2018 - Page 18

THE FACE OF AMERICA’S NEXT ENGINEERS Why West Catholic’s Approach to STEM is Paying Off If your average students were offered a track of courses focused solely on engineering, how many do you think would enroll? One in ten? One in twenty? Fewer? Try twenty-five percent. That’s how many are signing up for the Engineering Technology Academy, according to Ryan Baxter, elective teacher at West Catholic Preparatory High School. The program, which was launched in 2013 in collaboration with Drexel University, has rapidly expanded from what began as a single cohort of 18 students. The Engineering Technology Academy (ETA) was created to mimic the learning rotation model at Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy in Goleta, CA, where students combine a set of skill building exercises in electronics, design, and manufacturing to create custom, high-quality projects. Since its initial year, ETA offerings at West Catholic Prep have broadened and deepened into a wider array of academic, practical, and vocational courses. The program is now designed to give students of all backgrounds a clear track for successful careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). “The purpose of ETA was to provide an outlet for students who were skilled with their hands and students who were also good at math,” says Baxter, a Drexel graduate and Philadelphia- area teacher for over eight years. “We were looking for ways to apply student learning that also supported their career development. And in the same breath, the manufacturing industry in the Greater Philadelphia area was looking to welcome that same type of student into their workforce,” he continues. “So we envisioned something like an apprenticeship that connects students to both the design and the manufacturing aspects of technology.” “ This program brought me closer to engineering and made me want to major in mechanical engineering in college, because I liked working with the machines.” Cindy, Grade 10