Spring-Ford receives grant to help costs with new engineering courses

Spring-Ford Area School District. Submitted.

LIMERICK — With a new engineering curriculum set to debut at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, the Spring-Ford Area School District got some extra cash to help sustain the program.

The Bemis Company, an international manfuacturing company headquartered in Neenah, Wis., awarded a grant of $35,000 to Spring-Ford’s “Pathway to Engineering” program.

Engineering classes as a part of Spring-Ford’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programming was approved late last year by the Spring-Ford Area School Board in the district’s effort to provide students with better skills to compete on “a global scale,” as several board members have emphasized multiple times.

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According to a press release from the district, the Pathway to Engineering program will allow students to use “the same industry-leading technology and software as the world’s top companies.”

Initially, only one class will be available in the fall of 2014 for Spring-Ford Area High School students, but each school year, another class will be added until there are four in place.

Kimberly Bast, Spring-Ford’s assistant director of curriculum, said the classes will be taught in-house by the district’s own teachers, who will receive the proper training this summer.

“The first class is called Introduction to Engineering Design (IED). Designed for 9th or 10th grade students, the major focus of IED is the design process and its application,” Bast told The Mercury. “Through hands-on projects, students apply engineering standards and document their work.”

Additionally, students will use 3-D modeling software for problems and utilize an “engineer’s notebook,” Bast said.

Spring-Ford Area High School Principal Pat Nugent said students can take an end-of-course exam for potential college credit, “much like AP courses.”

The grant is scheduled to be spread out over three years, with $10,000 used in the first year, $15,000 in the second and the remaining $10,000 in the remaining year.

With the total expected first-year cost of the program estimated at $14,000, the grant money will definitely help offset the implementation costs which include training and equipment acquisition, Bast said.

Spring-Ford is using a template set forth by Project Lead the Way, a non-profit which sets a STEM education curriculum that multiple districts can use.

Bast said Project Lead the Way brought the district’s attention to the grant.

Moving forward, the money should “cover most of our needs” as the implementation of programs moves forward, according to Bast.

Currently, enrollment projections aren’t available for the engineering class next year but Bast said they’ll have a better grasp in the spring.

Nearby, Phoenixville Area School District agreed last year to partner with Wilkes University to offer similar engineering opportunities at Phoenixville Area High School for college credit.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.