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Lecanto High may offer engineering

The School Board will be asked next week to approve a nationally known pre-engineering program at the school.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


INVERNESS -- Lecanto High School is hoping to soon give students a taste of what it would really be like to be an engineer.

On Tuesday, the school will seek School Board approval to begin a nationally known pre-engineering curriculum called Project Lead the Way.

The course would give students with an aptitude in math and science four courses in high school that teach the technical skills they will need if they study engineering and later work in the field, according to Kelly Tyler, coordinator of vocational, adult and community education.

"We're moving in that direction and we know that the job market is moving in that direction," Tyler said. "We're changing our traditional vocational options. . . . We've got to be moving forward to meet the needs of business and society."

The proposal comes on the heels of the announcement last week that Lecanto will get an Oracle Internet Academy aimed at preparing students for computer network and programming jobs.

Project Lead the Way is composed of four courses, which are taken as electives. They include Introduction to Engineering and Design, Digital Electronics, Principles of Engineering and Engineering Design and Development, which is an independent study format course that ends in a formal presentation of an engineering project.

School officials also will begin working with Central Florida Community College and other institutions to coordinate programs. That could mean dual enrollment and credit opportunities, which would translate into shorter and less expensive college stays for students.

The program could be very expensive because it requires various kinds of computer and automated manufacturing hardware. But Lecanto has a good head start: During he mid 1990s, developer Stan Olsen entered into a partnership with Lecanto High School and provided a laboratory stocked with automated manufacturing equipment.

Lecanto High teacher Burgess Newcomb will attend two-week training sessions for each of the courses he will teach. He said he already teaches much of the material, but Project Lead the Way provides the curriculum, expert advice on needed software updates, a network of educators across the country and coordination between school districts and college programs.

"It gives me more time to concentrate on what is important -- teaching the program," Newcomb said.

Nationwide, the goal of Project Lead the Way has been to increase the percentage of graduates who make it through a full engineering program. Half of all such students drop out.

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