story and photo by Bryan Painter
As a supporter of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning, Oklahoma Baptist University has entered into an agreement with Project Lead the Way (PLTW) to begin the fall semester of 2024. Through this agreement, OBU will offer an annual $1,000 scholarship to students who have completed at least two PLTW courses during their high school years. This applies to PLTW students who enroll in any area of study at OBU.
The academic programs at OBU which readily align with PTLW high school curriculum include engineering, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, and programs in the division of exercise science and sports recreation.
Project Lead the Way is a nationwide program that aims to increase the quantity and quality of learning for students in the areas of STEM. Through practical applications of those disciplines, PLTW students engage in project-based learning requiring problem-solving, critical and creative thinking, and applied learning using state-of-the-art equipment and techniques. PLTW assignments and projects are designed to promote group communication and collaboration amongst students.
Currently, there are 311 Project Lead the Way programs in Oklahoma. A 2019 study (Gary Pike and Kirsten Robbins, “Expanding the Pipeline: The Effect of Participating in Project Lead the Way on Majoring in a STEM Discipline,” Journal of STEM Education Research, Vol. 2, pp. 14-34, 2019) found that students taking at least one PLTW course were statistically more likely to major in a STEM discipline in college. The more PLTW courses they took, the higher the likelihood the student majored in a STEM discipline.
Sara Wright, director of PLTW School Success, commented, “This new agreement with Oklahoma Baptist University is a great example of an in-state four-year higher education institution actively partnering with PLTW and demonstrating to students the value they place on STEM learning. Students participating in these programs are aware that they are being actively recruited through the offer of scholarships and plans to award college credit. We welcome this win-win opportunity provided through OBU.”
PLTW students work through modules that consist of activities, a project and a problem to gain increased knowledge and skills. They then proceed to use those skills to investigate a meaningful project before transferring and applying them to a real-world problem.
At the conclusion of each course, students have the option to complete an end-of-course exam to assess their learning, in a format similar to the advanced placement (AP) model of learning. The university is exploring options to grant college credit for successful completion of these exams.
Dr. Contessa Edgar, chair of the OBU division of math and science, said, “The Project Lead the Way curriculum provides an excellent education to high school students, exposing them to advanced concepts and career options in STEM. Overall, the caliber of students and the depth of learning in these courses offers distinction in learning. The students are successfully equipped to pursue related academic programs at the college level. Our hope is that the PLTW scholarship affirms students for accomplishing the additional work required in PLTW.”
Dr. Chuck Baukal, director of OBU’s engineering program commented, “We are very excited to partner with PLTW. The numerous pre-engineering high school students I have met who are completing the PLTW curriculum are very well prepared to become successful university engineering students. It is a win-win partnership. This caliber of education and training for these students, both in high school and continuing into college, will significantly enhance the workforce of tomorrow.”
Dr. Chad Payn, chair of OBU’s division of exercise science and sports recreation said, “I am thrilled about the partnership between Oklahoma Baptist University and Project Lead the Way. This agreement represents our commitment to providing world-class education and preparing our students to be future shapers. By integrating PLTW’s cutting-edge programs into our academic framework, we are equipping our students with the essential skills and competencies needed to excel in STEM fields.”
OBU computer science professor Dr. Timothy Darr, said, “The PLTW focus on project-based learning will ease the transition of the PLTW graduate to the OBU computer science program. Our program is heavily focused on project work, especially in the upper-level courses. PLTW’s emphasis on problem solving will prepare students for one of our program’s strengths: data analytics and data science.
Finally, a PLTW graduate’s critical and creative thinking skills mesh well with the OBU computer science program strong integration with the liberal arts in which we consider the integration of faith and technology (especially artificial intelligence) in every single course. We are excited to welcome these students to the OBU community!”
The partnership with OBU and Project Lead the Way is part of the ongoing mission of OBU to create pathways which promote higher learning, to strengthen the workforce, and to foster student enrollment in the world-class academic programs offered through the university.
Research demonstrates that PLTW students outperform their peers in school, are better prepared for post-secondary studies, and are more likely to consider careers in STEM compared to their non-PLTW peers.
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