Project Lead The Way uses project-based learning to prepare students for the global economy.

Seventh graders in some Illinois schools are designing playground equipment using advanced modeling software. Middlesboro, Ky., eighth graders are going to have a “robot drag race” later this year. These and many more projects across the nation are made possible by the nonprofit organization Project Lead The Way (PLTW), which provides STEM curriculum and programs to schools across the country.

PLTW uses project-based learning to prepare students for the global economy. It also offers professional development for teachers and includes a network of educators, students, universities, and professionals who work together to design the curriculum.

School districts across the country are implementing PLTW’s curriculum in an effort to introduce students to engineering concepts and give them a competitive advantage as they pursue college majors and careers.

A partnership between Chevron and PLTW is creating positive change in New Orleans area schools.

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PLTW’s partnership with Chevron began in 2011 when Chevron identified a growing need for engineers and scientists within the Louisiana region. Chevron partnered with PLTW to expand the program throughout southeastern Louisiana—funding six middle and junior high schools through a two-year grant. The grants have helped the schools in starting the Gateway To Technology middle school program, purchasing classroom equipment and sending teachers for professional development.

After the first year of the program, schools are seeing positive effects.

“We are extremely pleased with the PLTW program,” said Dana Gonzales, science and math specialist for the Orleans Parish School Board. “Orleans Parish schools have had their share of issues. To see this kind of enthusiasm has been truly wonderful. Kids and teachers are getting so excited about the program, and it seems to be re-energizing our faculty. The students are getting a lot of their deficits for math and science filled by having to apply the concepts to projects they’re working on in the engineering program.”

At Riverside High School in Durham, N.C., the school’s engineering pathway program uses PLTW curriculum.

Even for students whose plans don’t include careers in engineering—like Megan Shiflett, who plans to study sports medicine at Mars Hill College—the program has been worth it.