Project Lead the Way at Del Rio High School

Del Rio High School in Del Rio, TX
Del Rio High School in Del Rio, TX

There is a shortage of engineers in the United States, but students at Del Rio High School are doing their part to help remedy that situation.

More than 180 students at Del Rio High are enrolled in a program called Project Lead the Way, a nationwide initiative to address the country’s shortage of engineers. PLTW is designed as a four-year curriculum that fits into any student’s schedule, and is taught in conjunction with traditional math and science courses.

High school students ultimately take five rigorous, relevant, reality-based PLTW courses that help them become better problem solvers. The courses are called principles of engineering, engineering design, digital electronics, computer-integrated manufacturing, and engineering design and development.

Del Rio High teachers Brad Billeaudeau and Bill Davis run the PLTW engineering program that has been in place at the school since 2005. They are proud to point out that 185 students are enrolled in 2010, compared to 15 students when the program began six years ago.

By the way, those 15 students today are all currently enrolled in colleges, attending universities such as Rice, Texas A&M and the University of Texas.

“All of the kids involved in this program should eventually be successful in the work world, getting into careers for any kind of engineering design company – from designing makeup for Cover Girl to designing space shuttles for NASA,” Billeaudeau says. “And it’s not just boys who are interested in the program here at Del Rio High. Right now, the ratio is about 60 percent boys to 40 percent girls. That means about 75 girls are currently involved in this excellent engineering initiative.”

The engineering lab at Del Rio High features equipment such as woodworking tools, a robotic arm, mills, a stress analyzer, 48 computer work stations and an oscilloscope.

“Some of our kids are taking Advanced Placement calculus and PLTW’s engineering design and development course and such,” Davis says. “If they had stuck with just the academic route, they never would have gained any hands-on use of tools for building things.”

Del Rio High is part of the San Felipe-Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District, which in 2005 specifically went looking for a high school curriculum that would help develop the local manufacturing workforce. Del Rio shares a border with Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, which has many maquiladora (twin plant) factories that import materials from the United States, then assemble or manufacture the materials before shipping them back to the U.S.

“Thanks to the PLTW program, these twin plants are interested in apprenticeship programs with our students right now,” says Dianne Trevino, career and technical education coordinator with the San Felipe-Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District. “Then ultimately, they are looking at Del Rio kids to come back as university graduates.”

Read more on schools in Del Rio, TX.

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