How to Enhance Your Project Lead The Way Engineering Curriculum

Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the nonprofit provider of STEM curricula for elementary, middle, and high schools, has been buzzing around school halls for years. It became famous for its project-based approach and emphasis on hands-on learning. The PLTW engineering curriculum is a great way to get students excited about engineering, and it challenges them to use engineering concepts to solve complex problems.

However, to create a well-rounded engineering program that prepares students for their next step, teachers are also incorporating SolidProfessor’s Library of online tutorials into their Project Lead the Way engineering curriculum. SolidProfessor’s training videos dive deeper into CAD software, giving students the detailed instruction they need to learn how to navigate their software program.

We talked to high school engineering teacher Cliff Greer to get a better idea of how he uses both SolidProfessor and PLTW engineering in his classes. Greer has more than eight years of experience teaching engineering, and before that, he worked in the industry for multiple years. In addition to being a PLTW master teacher, training other educators in the summer, he was named a 2018 PLTW Outstanding Teacher Award Winner for engineering and computer science. Here’s what he had to say.

PLTW master teacher Cliff Greer explains how he uses both SolidProfessor and PLTW engineering to provide his students with the most well-rounded engineering education

Before we started using the PLTW engineering curriculum, our courses were focused more on drafting and industrial arts. Our district is really big, so as PLTW has grown, our district has grown with it, and we now teach engineering at the middle school level. We use state funds and Perkins Grant money to pay for our PLTW engineering curriculum and SolidProfessor membership. Plus, we get money back from the state for each student who passes their CAD software certification exam.

Read more: A Comprehensive List of STEM Grants for K-12 Teachers

Since incorporating PLTW engineering and SolidProfessor, we have a more software-focused curriculum. We use Inventor in our freshman engineering program, and then we introduce Revit during students’ junior and senior years for civil engineering. In our Engineering Club, we teach AutoCAD because most engineering firms still use AutoCAD and require that experience.

What I like about PLTW engineering is that it takes away the stress and pressure of creating your own curriculum. The lesson plans and course outlines are already made, so I can focus on the application. This year, I won the PLTW Outstanding Teacher Award, and I attribute that to having time to really teach, make the class fun, and look for opportunities to reinforce what I teach outside of the classroom. Our school is a PLTW Distinguished High School, which among other things, means that we have a certain number of kids who start out in the program and stick with it throughout their secondary education. Then, a percentage of those students must attain a specific score on each PLTW end of course exam.

I initially decided to incorporate SolidProfessor in our engineering program to help my students learn Inventor and Revit. Our students were struggling to really get the hang of the software, so I wanted to find something that had enough instruction and practice activities. The reason I chose SolidProfessor specifically is because it teaches all the different CAD software programs, so I can use it to give more instruction on Inventor and Revit in addition to AutoCAD.

With SolidProfessor, I typically have my students take the introductory course for the software program we’re using. The students then get hands-on experience using the software during their PLTW engineering projects. SolidProfessor is a good tool for them to have if they get stuck in the design process or they need to troubleshoot a problem.

We also use SolidProfessor for certification preparation because what we do in class doesn’t give them enough training to pass the exam. My students typically spend at least a month and a half preparing specifically for the exam in addition to their work on projects. Students are required to score at least an 80% on the practice test before they are allowed to take the certification exam.

Through these programs, our curriculum is able to work for students who just want to try out engineering and for those who want to pursue it at the next level. Most of our students do end up going to college for engineering, so they get a leg up on their resume with all the experience they get. Many of our juniors and seniors get internships that use their Inventor, Revit, or AutoCAD experience, and it’s really fulfilling to see them do real CAD work in the industry.

Engineering isn’t mandatory at our school, and all engineering classes are honors level. When students pass their certification exam, that actually counts as college credit for them. So, not only are they learning valuable skills and enhancing their resume, but they’re entering college with a leg up on many of the other students.

Kelly Mantick
About the Author

SolidProfessor academic content writer and amateur hula hooper