Boston.com reports that Olathe Northwest High School is one of several Kansas high schools that has found that hands-on elements of engineering programs are helping to keep students focused and engaged, all while learning the practical element to math and science skills. For students in Sue Rippe’s sophomore chemistry class, approximately 80 percent of class time is spent with hands-on exercises. For example, a class on gases might see the launch of a hot-air balloon. Seniors might design a turbojet engine or design a space shuttle that can re-enter the atmosphere, just like the real thing. Olathe’s engineering program is distinct because of its interdisciplinary approach. It is one of the district’s five transfer programs in which students study core academic programs within the context of a career interest. Rippe, 2006 National Teacher of the Year by the Aerospace Education Foundation of the Air Force Association, says about the program: “It’s fun. It’s relevant. Nobody ever asks me, ‘Why do we have to learn this?'” …