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Schools to expand engineering and biomedical courses

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SCHS, Collins adding through new grants

By Todd Martin

Shelby County Public Schools continue to lead the way in engineering and biomedical science classes.

The district learned this week that the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) courses will continue to expand at Collins and Shelby County high schools.

Shelby County is one of just 17 schools to earn the $50,000 biomedical sciences grant, and Collins is one of just four to earn the grant in engineering and one of only three to earn an additional $25,000 grant for a gateway to engineering track for eighth-grade students.

"Last year we got started by initiating PLTW in this district," said Kerry Fannin, assistant superintendent of student achievement, in a press release. "We wanted to build the program and these grants solidify the curriculum into [Shelby County Public Schools] and help us expand the opportunities at both schools."

The grants allow the programs to expand and offer more courses as they continue to grow at each school.

SCHS currently offers two Principles of Biomedical Sciences courses to 38 students, and Collins offers four Introduction to Engineering Design to 72 students.

Now, in the 2011-12 school year, SCHS will offer five Principles of Biomedical Sciences classes to freshmen and the Human Body Systems course to students in grades 10-12.

Collins will also continue to expand with up to 10 classes in the Pathway to Engineering Program that will include four classes of the Gateway To Technology for eighth-grade students, two classes of Introduction to Engineering Design, and add two classes each of the Principles of Engineering and the Digital Electronics courses for students in grades 10-12.

To begin the 2011-2012 school year, seventh-grade students will be able to apply for admission in the Gateway To Technology program.

“They will then be summarily recruited, the student and parents, to participate in the program,” Fannin said.

Both programs will continue to grow with more classes becoming available in 2012-13 and 2013-14 as students grow within the programs.

Fannin said the focus on science, technology, engineering and medical is a critical portion of Shelby County's curriculum.

"That (STEM) is where jobs will be in the future," he said. “That is one reason we rolled out the accelerated academy programs for next year and expanded the PLTW as our response to answering that call. In short, we are preparing our students for those jobs being made available in the 21st century."

The growth of the programs also allows it to branch out into the rest of the district. Both the biomedical and engineering programs will start to offer Future Doctor and Future Engineer programs in the middle school and elementary schools. These programs will take projects from the labs into the other schools, and teams will be invited to each of the high schools to participate in experiments alongside the high school students.