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Brewer Science sees a STEM future in Project Lead the Way

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ProjectLeadtheWay.jpgAs a staunch longtime supporter of STEM education, Brewer Science was a natural fit when it came to establishing a partnership with Project Lead the Way (PLTW) a decade ago.

The national nonprofit based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, creates hands-on learning experiences for K-12 students and teachers across the U.S., focusing on the STEM skills most needed in today’s global economy. Over the past 10 years, Brewer Science has been a huge advocate for PLTW, which is largely privately funded.

Among its many forms of support, the company donates funding; pays for instructor training; creates and leads student and instructor workshops; encourages staffers to step up as mentors and robotics team coaches; helps critique student research projects; and hosts students for tours and special events. To date, Brewer Science has helped sponsor 15 classes benefiting about 200 students.

“Because we have a strong skill set in science, technology, engineering, and math, we are a good fit for the program,” explains Brewer Science Corporate Relations Manager Loretta Wallis. “PLTW empowers students to develop in-demand knowledge and skills they need to thrive.”

The company’s involvement has all been at the local level through a program administered by Missouri University of Science & Technology, five miles from Brewer Science headquarters in Rolla, Missouri. The university acts as a leading affiliate for PLTW, providing teacher training, professional development and information for counselors and administrators throughout the Midwest.

How does the program work? PLTW trains teachers in its methodology via a three-phase professional development program, then provides the needed curricula, course software, administrative and technical support, and access to its learning management system. Participating schools pay a flat participation fee. Each year, participants include some 5,000 middle and high school students at some 4,700 U.S. schools, spanning rural, urban, and suburban districts across 50 states. Over this school year, more than 700 programs are being offered in Missouri alone.

At the high school level, students may complete a four-year PLTW course of study in engineering, biomedical science, or computer science, all of which is integrated into their core curriculum. To qualify, they must pass at least three exams — one AP exam, one PLTW exam, and another AP or PLTW exam. Upon program completion, they’re eligible for AP and PLTW recognition that could lead to college credit. The coursework, a combination of activities-based, project-based, and problem-based (APPB) learning, helps prepare them for college studies in engineering, technology, biomedical science, and/or computer science fields. Student experiences through the program include opportunities to apply engineering concepts to real problems, lead teams, speak to public audiences, conduct research, analyze data, and understand real-world impacts, according to the PLTW website.

An instructor from a PLTW Senior Capstone class last year said his students much appreciated the feedback they received from Brewer Science engineers regarding their research projects.

“They loved coming to Brewer Science, and suggested we do it both in the fall and the spring,” the instructor noted, explaining the students focus on solving a problem over a months-long process. “They received feedback from more than 25 employees, which provided them with solid input for the next steps.”

Wallis explains that the company sees its PLTW involvement as a way of further encouraging an early interest in science, technology, and engineering and introducing students to the rewards of jobs in those fields.

“We want to encourage the next generation of technologists,” she notes. “We get to inspire and encourage the next generation, and we can also share information about our intern program with students so the learning can continue beyond the classroom."

Brewer Science is among multiple companies and organizations worldwide striving to address labor shortages in STEM fields so it can build a stronger, more innovative workforce in the future.

“We work with colleges and universities around the globe to identify and attract talent,” Wallis says. “By providing support for programs such as PLTW and other learning activities, we are growing the pipeline of talent.”

Learn more about Project Lead the Way and how Brewer Science is partnering to support a strong future for the next generation of engineers.
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