Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a nonprofit organization providing STEM curriculum to K-12 schools, is used in many engineering programs across the country to give students hands-on STEM experience. The curriculum they provide helps students not only build skills in science and engineering, but also develop problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration skills. Stranahan High School’s engineering and design program decided to use PLTW’s engineering curriculum in 2017 to prepare students for postsecondary education and entry into the job market. They knew students would enjoy the hands-on classroom experience and that they’d be able to grow interest in their engineering and design program by using PLTW’s project-based curriculum. Juan “JJ” Teyssandier has been educating students for twenty years and teaches two PLTW courses at Stranahan High School–Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) and Principles of Engineering (POE).
When Stranahan High School decided to implement PLTW into their curriculum, Teyssandier knew that he would need to teach students the fundamentals and specific functions of Inventor in order to complete the projects included in PLTW’s curriculum. While Teyssandier really liked the PLTW curriculum, he immediately recognized that there was a gap he would need to fill. “We were just touching the surface and I needed to go further into detail on engineering techniques and software-specific commands.” Without being a veteran Inventor user himself, Teyssandier was unable to close that gap in the curriculum with his own knowledge. “If I had used PLTW’s curriculum model, my students would have needed to figure out how to use Inventor on their own; they would have drowned.”
Additional funding was needed to attain a resource that could properly fill this gap in curriculum. All funding decisions are approved by Stranahan High School’s principal and funds are allocated based on availability, necessity, and impact. Since funding had already been used for PLTW, Teyssandier made the case to his principal that PLTW would not be a worthwhile and successful investment without having an additional resource to teach students the software-specific fundamentals. The principal agreed and Teyssandier set out to find an affordable and easy-to-implement solution.
After evaluating other tools, Teyssandier remembered previously using SolidProfessor for professional development and decided it would be a good choice for his students to use alongside PLTW. Teyssandier uses SolidProfessor in tandem with PLTW in the two courses he teaches. “I embed SolidProfessor lessons in the curriculum given to me by PLTW. The lessons and projects work together and are completed simultaneously. My students learn the basics of creating drawings in AutoCAD and models in Inventor,” outlines Teyssandier, “and then progress into the more complex features available in each software.” SolidProfessor lessons are used to help students understand the engineering techniques needed to complete the projects included in PLTW’s curriculum and the design intent behind specific feature choices in each project. “I was able to add SolidProfessor to my class without any complications. The platform has exceeded my expectations and has motivated my students to explore other areas of engineering.” Students enrolled in Teyssandier’s PLTW classes also have the opportunity to earn certifications before graduation. These certifications, coupled with PLTW’s hands-on experience, have helped students ready themselves for college and land local engineering internships. “To give our students an edge when they enter college and eventually the job market, we set a goal for our students to earn at least one industry recognized certification.” Teyssandier’s classes utilize the Autodesk prep courses and SOLIDWORKS Certification Pathways offered to SolidProfessor members.
SolidProfessor made it possible for Stranahan High School’s engineering and design program to successfully implement PLTW curriculum and help students prepare for their jump to postsecondary education. Not only did SolidProfessor fill this crucial gap, it’s also responsible for helping 95% of Teyssandier’s students earn either a SOLIDWORKS or an Autodesk Inventor certification by the end of the year last year. “SolidProfessor is the bridge that closes the gap between PLTW projects and the software applications used to complete those projects,” declares Teyssandier. “The software learning curve would have been steep, and my students would have been frustrated without SolidProfessor.” Teyssandier can effectively use PLTW’s curriculum in his class because his students have learned the necessary design techniques prior to starting the provided projects. “Learning and practicing with SolidProfessor has built up the confidence of my students and they no longer hesitate to start a project or test out a design.”