In charge of her own education

Project-based curriculum allows students to self-direct their learning

It could have been kismet. It was on Audrey Williamson’s birthday that her mother first heard a radio commercial touting an alternative, STEM-focused high school that encouraged self-directed learning. 

“She just thought to herself, ‘That is so Audrey,’” Williamson says. “So, I thought I’d give it a chance. I had been planning to attend a Catholic high school. But I thought I’d apply to Purdue Polytechnic High School and if I got in, I’d just see how it goes. I thought I could always transfer back.” 

But Williamson was hooked. 

In June, she’ll join fellow seniors to celebrate the first graduating class at PPHS. Following graduation, she’ll begin an internship in Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. She plans to enroll at Purdue in the fall as a freshman pursuing a degree in robotics engineering technology. 

Looking back, Williamson credits the PPHS experience with developing her communication skills and building her confidence. 

“Coming in as a freshman, I was pretty shy,” she says. “I was reserved and would kind of cower away from people I didn’t know. But at PPHS, I was exposed to so many different people. You’re constantly interacting with students from all grade levels and through that, I became less nervous and more confident in communicating my ideas.” 

The school’s focus on project-based learning allowed Williamson to select projects that not only furthered her academic knowledge, but aligned with her own interests. One of her favorite passion projects centered around “dungeoneering,” akin to the popular tabletop role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. 

“I made my own character sheet, which I’ve done before, but this time I was able to have the unique experience of being a dungeon master,” she says. “It taught me a lot about preparing myself for any outcome as well as how to help coach others to their potential. We had people of varying skill levels in the ‘dungeoneering’ passion project and I had to learn to be responsive to each individual and adjust to the level of support they needed.”

Sound like an atypical high school project? Purdue Polytechnic is not a typical high school. It’s an innovative approach to education that encourages students with drive and motivation like Williamson to learn at their own pace and design a personalized curriculum. 

“At PPHS, I’ve learned I’m capable of a lot more than I thought,” Williamson says. “Our robotics team qualified for the world championship in our rookie year. I’ve personally won several pitch competitions, something I never thought I would do. I’ve been nominated for awards that I never thought I’d be considered for. 

“My high school experience showed me just how much I can achieve.” 

For more information on student registration, donations or business partnerships, and media requests, contact PPHS Network Office at info@pphs.purdue.edu


Related info

Read More PPHS Stories
Let's go

Research News

More Research News

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2015-21 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Office of Strategic Communications

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact News Service at purduenews@purdue.edu.