As Littleton High School Principal Amy Oaks ramps up her efforts to get kids interested in the sciences, at least one retired engineer is cheering her on.
"We, as a country, are at high risk of losing our longstanding competitive edge in the tech world, because less and less kids are going into technology," said Ralph Dergance, who retired from Lockheed Martin in 1999. "Those of us in the profession could see the erosion. A lot of people are hired in this country who weren't educated in this country."
Dergrance helped launch the local arm of Shades of Blue, which hosts nine-week workshops for all interested high-school students. It brings in mentors from area companies like Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing and others that require employees educated in science, technology, engineering and math — together known as STEM subjects.The workshops, held at LHS but open to all, are hands on and collaborative. They build rockets or create water-treatment systems, or perhaps construct a bridge from gumdrops and toothpicks.
"They're learning a process, not just having fun together," said Dergance.
They're held on Saturday mornings, so kids have to be pretty committed.
"It's satisfying to see how enthusiastic they are and how smart they are," he said. "They're getting a great education, and these are the ones who really want to do it."
It's likely some of the same kids will be excited for the new engineering course Oaks and her team have created, called "Creative and Collaborative Problem Solving."
"What sets this course apart from technology studies is that a technologist can do anything, but he uses a recipe from a book. The engineer writes the book," she said.
She says it will be focus on solving a set of problems in a variety of engineering fields, not just building robots or bridges. Students will have a portfolio at the end, which hopefully will assist them on their pathway to higher education. It's a model, she said, that could be applied to other content areas — performing arts or languages, for example. Those are areas of heavy focus for LHS, which is a designated International Baccalaureate school.
"We really don't want to become a charter school or a STEM school, that's really not what this is about," she said. "It's about finding balance."
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