Elkhorn students share ideas with Wisconsin legislators at Project Lead the Way Day

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Andrea Anderson
Saturday, March 15, 2014

MADISON — Eleven Elkhorn High School students were among students from nine districts across the state that filled the second floor of the Capitol rotunda Friday to show off their latest projects at the third Project Lead the Way Day.

The students were invited to explain the thought processes behind their latest ideas to state legislators as a means of illustrating the importance of science, technology, engineering and math education.

Project Lead the Way is the country's number one provider of STEM programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Callie Peterson, a junior at Elkhorn High School, helped build a mock 911 door alarm with three of her classmates in the school's digital electronics class. The class is one of five Project Lead the Way classes offered.

The group's alarm begins operating when the door opens and a message is sent to the alarm that switches it on, then the police are called within 15 seconds.

It took three days to build from start to finish, Peterson said.

Callie's interest in engineering was sparked when she took a technical education class in middle school. Since her freshman year she has enrolled in Project Lead the Way classes at the high school.

John Griswold, also a junior and another creator of the alarm, was hooked when he saw the school's introduction to engineering design class when he visited in middle school.

“If there had been no engineering program at our school I probably wouldn't have gotten into (engineering),” John said. 

John and Callie said they are grateful for the Project Lead the Way classes offered at the high school and were honored to attend the event at the capitol.

“It's pretty exciting (and) cool to look around and see what other people have built also from some of the same classes,” Callie said. Other projects included a marble sorting machine and a robotic claw that picks up candy.

Offering hands-on classes with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math to high school students is one of the best ways to show students all possible career opportunities, said Steven Salter, director of Wisconsin's Project Lead the Way.

On the way to the Capitol Friday morning, Jacob Coehoorn, Elkhorn High School math and Project Lead the Way digital electronics teacher, asked the students if they were considering a career in engineering. All their hands went up, Coehoorn said.

This is the fifth year the high school has offered Project Lead the Way classes and the first time the school has been invited to attend the event that is held every two years.

“I know myself and the other instructor that's here are taking away some really cool ideas to inspire kids to try different things and make them think in different ways and learn different aspects of what we're teaching in Project Lead the Way," Coehoorn said.

About 125 students are participating in Project Lead the Way classes, Principal Chris Trottier said. Similar to Advanced Placement classes, students can receive college credit if they pass a test at the end of the year covering the material.

One class, principals of engineering, Trottier described as “physics on steroids,” to explain the complexity of the courses the students are taking.

“Every student at Elkhorn High School is our best and brightest but these are the best of the best,” when it comes to the Project Lead the Way classes, Trottier said.

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