Program provides tools to lead students into higher technology

Beth Rumsey, Staff Writer

Jac-Cen-Del students have a unique opportunity to sharpen their critical thinking and problem solving skills through the engineering courses that are a part of the Project Lead the Way program. The three classes, Introduction to Engineering, Principles of Engineering, and Digital Electronics, include students from grades 8 through 12 and provides an opportunity for them to earn college credit when completed.

This is the third year for Project Lead the Way courses at JCD, according to Jr./Sr. High School Principal Johnny Budd. The curriculum and lab as well as all equipment and supplies needed were funded through grants from such organizations as the Indiana Virtual Academy, Workforce Development and EcO 15, which is for $103,000 over the next three years.

“The EcO 15 grant has allowed us to offer the third year Digital Electronics course,” said Budd. “Without the grant, this would not have been possible.”

The current lab was expanded so that students are able to work on projects at the same time. According to Budd, work benches and room renovations were completed by JCD personnel.
As an instructor in the Principle of Engineering and the Digital Electronics courses, Paul Thole was required to train two weeks, learning the curriculum and the projects. According to Thole, the training was extremely intensive with eight hours of instruction and six hours of homework.

Projects for the courses included taking apart an everyday object and then creating drawings of the parts on the specialized computer software. In Digital Electronics, the students work on circuit boards while learning from their mistakes along the way. “The classes allow the students to be creative and challenged as well as learning teamwork skills,” said Thole.

Glenn Unklesbay has been the high school band director for several years before he was approached by Principal Budd to become an instructor for the first year Introduction to Engineering course. According to Unklesbay, he is enjoying his first year as a Project Lead the Way instructor.

“The engineering curriculum changes the way a student goes about problem solving,” he said. The students are learning skills that they will use every day for the rest of their lives.

Both Thole and Unklesbay are passionate about the program and believe that every student would benefit from the class even if they do not become engineers. “I think every student at JCD should take Introduction to Engineering,” said Unklesbay.

“I hope that parents realize what a great opportunity these classes are for the students,” said Thole. “I would like for them to encourage their children to try the introduction class.”

Students who have completed all three courses at JCD can continue their engineering studies at the Southeastern Career Center through the Advanced Engineering course, also part of the Project Lead the Way program.

“What impresses me the most is the way the students can’t wait to get started,” said Cheryll Obendorf, Ripley County EcO15 Coordinator. The program brings a new excitement to education.


Senior Jonathan Siegert works on the day's assignment in the newly renovated Project Lead the Way lab, funded by grants through Indiana Virtual Academy, Workforce Development, and EcO15.