Problem: Enrollment of female students in Colorado Springs School District 11 middle school career and technical education exploratory classes was low, which meant few females enrolled in those electives at the high school level.
Solution: One of the career and technical education teachers noticed that females in his classes avoided certain machinery, and his wife suggested that he repaint the machines. He was amazed when the girls responded positively after he replaced the drab gray with pink and purple. District 11 has now gone much further by partnering with Intel to create a Gateway to Technology program to enhance its techniques for recruiting females for its math, science and pre-engineering courses at the district's six middle schools. Project Lead the Way programs at the district's three high schools maintain the science and math interest. The Gateway to Technology pre-engineering program, which began in 2001, offers new methods to engage students in math, science and technology, and trains teachers in student recruitment strategies through workshops and school forums.
Judy Cara, Intel's community and government relations manager is responsible for classroom volunteers, Intel company tours for students, and hosting teacher workshops on recruiting students into math, science and technology courses. Intel has provided 26 computers for each of the six middle schools in District 11, $26,000 in grants for 30 computers or computer labs in two district high schools, and start-up money for a third high school. Middle school administrators are pleased with the program's progress. Students in the program can now build and race CO2 powered cars, fly bottle rockets, operate robotic arms and use Auto Desk Inventor (a CAD program).
Principal Karen Gidley of Irving Middle School says, "It is a terrific program and kids just love it." She continues, " It's so beneficial getting students, especially girls, involved in real world experiences." This is echoed at the high school level, too. "Mitchell has a goal of recruiting female students, and we have hired female teachers to act as role models," adds Principal Larry Cutter of Mitchell High School. By 2006, the program had resulted in a 50 percent increase in enrollment for middle school students in math, science and technology courses. Students are further encouraged to take Project Lead the Way courses at the high school level. The main goal of the program is to create a pipeline from the middle school to the high school, says director of career and technical education, Laurie Maxson.
Maxson says, "We also depend on female engineer industry role models to volunteer in the schools. Intel and the Society of Women Engineers have played a significant and encouraging role. They volunteer an average of sixteen hundred hours annually in classrooms, serving as speakers and mentors for students."
Gateway to Technology's summer transition program, called the STEPS (Science Technology & Engineering Preview Summer) Academy, helps maintain and encourage math, science and pre-engineering interest through the summer. STEPS, a hands-on, project-based program, helps students learn advanced math, science, and technology fundamentals.
Intel's Judy Cara has begun sharing the success of District 11's Gateway to Technology and Project Lead the Way programs as models for other states and districts in the nation, which have already provided similar school partnership programs in Denver, Jefferson County, Falcon, and District 20. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers Foundation (SME-EF) has gotten involved as well. The SME-EF recently awarded its Build the Future Award and $5,000 to District 11 and has begun its own start-up program, which has earmarked $240,000 nationwide. In 2007 SME-EF will offer college scholarships and help fund 45 summer STEPS Academies in 13 states.
Ken Royal is associate editor.