Purdue News

December 21, 2005

Project Lead the Way Indiana receives national award

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A national educational program has honored Purdue and the state of Indiana for working together to address the shortage of U.S. engineering and engineering technology students.

The national award recognizes the Indiana State Partnership of Project Lead the Way, administered by the Purdue College of Technology and the state's Department of Education and Department of Workforce Development. Project Lead the Way seeks to increase the number and quality of engineers and engineering technologists in the United States through collaborations among K-12 education, higher education and industry. Program participants, who often are enrolled in college preparatory math and science classes, are introduced to the rigors of the engineering field through hands-on projects such as computer-aided design, robotics, electronics and engineering design.

Educators and employers have identified a pressing need for programs like Project Lead the Way. According to the American Association of Engineering Societies, the number of collegebound students who planned to study engineering declined by more than 30 percent between 1992 and 2002. The number of U.S. engineering graduates also declined by 20 percent to fewer than 60,000. At the same time, more than half of the U.S. work force in these engineering-related disciplines is approaching retirement. If current trends continue, by 2010 more than 90 percent of the world's scientists and engineers will live in Asia.

Michael T. O'Hair, the associate dean for statewide technology and engagement who oversees Purdue's Project Lead the Way involvement, said the program is but one of several examples of how Purdue works with the state to increase the number of students who study science, technology, engineering and math.

"This is a partnership that reaps great benefits for both Purdue and the state of Indiana," O'Hair said. "Programs like Project Lead the Way are demonstrated to be highly successful in getting students interested in math and science at an early age. Students with high-tech skills secure good paying jobs, which benefit the economy."

Ronald L. Stiver, Department of Workforce Development commissioner, said the state considers Project Lead the Way to be a sound investment in Indiana's future.

"We are committed to ensuring that every Hoosier has access to the education and training programs that will give them the knowledge, experience and confidence to build better careers, lives and communities," Stiver said. "We are equally committed to ensuring our state's employers have access to the world's premier work force and innovative programs. Project Lead the Way is a fantastic program that helps us meet both goals."

Project Lead the Way reaches more than 14,000 students each year in 135 middle and high schools throughout Indiana, which leads all other states except New York in student participation. Suellen Reed, Indiana superintendent of public instruction, said she would like to see the program grow even more.

"We have heard nothing but praise for this program, and Indiana schools have done a wonderful job of encouraging student participation," Reed said. "This program is a great opportunity for students and schools, and we would like to see more schools across the state take advantage of the curriculum. We also would like to encourage more involvement from businesses and see more engineers work with our schools."

Niel Tebbano, vice president of Project Lead The Way, said, "The state of Indiana has built a model partnership that is unique in this country. The Indiana partnership is recognized for its selfless and effective approach to working collaboratively for the benefit of its students and the state's continued prosperity. It is a model for the nation."

Project Lead the Way operates in 44 states. Purdue is among 24 state universities that administer the program for their respective states.

Writer: Marydell Forbes (765) 496-7704, mforbes@purdue.edu

Sources: Michael O'Hair, (765) 494-2554, mtohair@purdue.edu

Joe DiLaura, Department of Workforce Development press secretary, (317) 232-3396, jdilaura@dwd.in.gov

Mary Jane Michalak, Department of Education press secretary, (317) 232-6616, michalak@doe.state.in.us

Niel Tebbano, (518) 877-6491, ntebbano@pltw.org

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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