Riverside’s Martin Luther King High School ‘Project Lead the Way’ Gives Students Real World Engineering Experience

Monday, February 18th, 2013

In 2000, just one year after Martin Luther King High School opened in Riverside, Michael Martin was tasked with starting California’s first ‘Project Lead the Way’ program.  Thirteen years later, Martin – a Master Teacher in the Principles of Engineering – is still leading the program designed to introduce and prepare high school students for careers in engineering, an assignment he considers extremely rewarding.

Cameron, Zak, and Eliot (Team 5840) getting ready for an engineering competition. (Source: King High Engineering Facebook Page)

King’s ‘Project Lead the Way’ is a four-year program that entails one engineering course in each of the participating students’ freshman and sophomore years, and a total of four in their junior and senior years, providing hands-on experience in the areas of mechanical, electrical, civil, manufacturing, automation and robotics engineering.  In the 2012-2013 school year the program was up to 340 participants.

As one of 4700 nationwide programs, Martin’s program at King was recognized as a national ‘Project Lead the Way’ model in 2008, and in 2009 was honored by Riverside County as a “Model School of Excellence”. It is estimated that 95-98% of students that complete their ‘Project Lead the Way’ experience continue on to study engineering in college.

In fact, students can start earning college credits even before they graduate high school via Riverside Community College or the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York for five of the six courses that are offered.  It’s not surprising that many program participants continue on to earn their degrees at sought-after engineering schools such as Berkeley, Cal Poly, UC Riverside, UC San Diego and several others.

“It’s exciting to see these kids get involved in the engineering program because many of them want to eventually have their careers here in Riverside,” stated Martin. “By getting the word out about the program, we hope that local businesses will consider our students for future internship or work experience opportunities.”

Total enrollment for the program has doubled in the last four years, including an increase in students transferring into King just to participate in the engineering program. “We had 30 students transfer in this school year, and are looking at even higher numbers for the 2013-2014 school year,” explained Martin. “Not many programs other than Advanced Placement (AP) appeal to this level of students, so they truly appreciate the opportunity.”

The public and any prospective students are invited to attend the ‘Project Lead the Way’ Open House at King High School on Tuesday, March 19th from 5 to 7 pm in classroom G-103 (moved from the original March 5th date).  All engineering classrooms will be open and faculty will be present to answer questions and provide additional insight. Current students will also be displaying projects and demonstrations. Registration is not required.

For questions about the program, email Michael at mmartin@rusd.k12.ca.us or visit King High School’s ‘Project Lead the Way’ Facebook page.

For more information on the national ‘Project Lead the Way’, visit www.pltw.org.