Early STEM learning program marks 10 years in Mississippi

Project Lead The Way is a course designed to teach science, technology, engineering and math to students of all grade levels.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 6:05 PM CST
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - It has been 10 years now since local partners teamed up to provide Project Lead The Way (PLTW) in schools across Mississippi.

PLTW is a course designed to teach science, technology, engineering and math to students of all grade levels: from crafting rockets and studying their launches to building robots and underwater machines.

“It’s really, really fun. It gives you great skills,” St. Martin High School senior Andrew Parker said. “To me, it’s not just like preparing for a future career or trying to go into it. I think everyone could do this, even if they have no interest in being an engineer or a mechanic or anything like that. It’s just fun.”

On Wednesday, Parker worked on a robot that will soon compete in a disk golf tournament.

“It’s all about seeing kids have these experiences,” said Catherine Minihan, PLTW’s chief impact officer. “It just opens doors in terms of they can think about careers that they would have never thought possible.”

Minihan said through this decade-long partnership with Chevron, 94 PLTW programs are implemented across the state, including 21 on the Coast.

St. Martin High School was the first.

“I took the first engineering program my junior year of high school,” Jerrod Scott told WLOX.

Scott is an engineer at Chevron. Now a prodigy of the project, he said the program did help “lead the way” for him.

“It’s kind of a full-circle moment to be now working for the company that really kind of fueled my interest to pursue engineering,” he said.

According to Chevron, the company has invested over $1.2 million in school grants through PLTW.

“If we didn’t have industries like Chevron that are coming in and helping us to fund these programs, then it just wouldn’t be able to happen. We wouldn’t be able to do it,” St. Martin High teacher Brandon Sema said. “We wouldn’t be able to do the gliders or we wouldn’t be able to pay for the rockets or get computers and all the software that comes with it.”

Senior Cheyenne Smith has enrolled in the high school’s PLTW course all four years, crediting her love of math with sparking her interest.

“I like a lot of, well, the lack of structure that it has,” Smith said. “I’m much more of a, ‘let me do it myself, let me get my hands on it,’ approach and be engaged. Because when I am just being talked at, it’s not as, like, I’m not going to learn as much as if I’m doing it like for real.”

To find out if your or your child’s school offers a PLTW course, you are encouraged to contact the school guidance counselor.

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