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FEATURE ARTICLE
SME Education Foundation and PLTW To Increase STEPS Academies
January 2007

Middle-school students across the U.S. will be presented with positive, hands-on manufacturing experiences through exposure to exciting careers in math, science and technology at the Science, Technology & Engineering Preview Summer (STEPS) Academies. Academy sites will expand from five, which began as pilots in 2006, to a total of 50 throughout 2007. States include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

Modeled after the STEPS Camps sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Education Foundation, the STEPS Academies were introduced as week-long, co-ed day camps providing innovative, fun and challenging projects, using curriculum developed by Project Lead the Way (PLTW). The SME Education Foundation has offered residential STEPS Camps to middle and high-school students since 1997. With more than 4,000 participants attending the STEPS programs to date, the STEPS Academies will be an option for even more middle-school students in the day camp format.

STEPS Academies are a joint program of the SME Education Foundation and PLTW to respond to a skills gap in the manufacturing workforce – a national situation that is projected to intensify because fewer young people are pursuing engineering-related careers during an era when more engineers are retiring.

“Middle school is ideal time to start students on the path toward a profession in engineering,” said Sherril West, SME Education Foundation President. “The first step is to expose students to math, science and technology before they have to select high school courses, which can limit their options when choosing a college major. By starting the investment in students 12 years before they graduate from college, the Education Foundation helps to fill the pipeline with skilled workers.”

Employers regularly emphasize the need for a more skilled workforce at a time in which there is a decrease in engineering graduates across the nation. A National Association of Manufacturers report, compiled in conjunction with Deloitte, predicts that manufacturers will need as many as 10 million new skilled workers by 2020.

STEPS Academies engage young people in leading-edge technologies such as robotics, aeronautics and biochemistry during the summer, and links them directly to the PLTW Gateway to Technology Program in the schools for the remainder of the school year. STEPS programs give students a glimpse of what a career in these industries would be like, as they brainstorm ideas, solve problems, build bridges, race cars and design working models.

The SME Education Foundation and PLTW have a goal to open 200 STEPS Academies by 2010. Those interested in learning more about starting an academy in their school district or how they can help fund the programs, may contact Bart Aslin, foundation director, SME Education Foundation, baslin@sme.org.


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