The First Annual FHSD PLTW Showcase

Posted on 05/07/2018
The First Annual FHSD PLTW Showcase

On Thursday, May 3, more than 80 high school students from all three FHSD high schools presented their Project Lead The Way (PLTW) capstone projects for review at Schneider Electric in O’Fallon, MO. PLTW provides a real-world, hands-on learning experience for elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states. The program empowers students to develop in-demand, transportable knowledge and skills through pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. This year, Francis Howell High School, Francis Howell Central High School, and Francis Howell North High School were all named PLTW Distinguished Schools, only eight other high schools in Missouri received this distinction for 2017-18. 

The First Annual FHSD PLTW Showcase took place at the Schneider Electric Technology Center in O’Fallon, MO, and consisted of two components.  Capstone projects were showcased to the public in an open house format, and students shared their research and demonstrated their findings to those in attendance. In addition, students also presented their independent research projects to a judging panel of industry professionals with a follow-up question and answer session. “The showcase presentation and their research paper are required for their second semester final exam grade,” said FHN PLTW teacher Matthew Riffee. “The formal presentation in front of the panel is what determines their Honors points for the school year.”

One of the goals of the FHSD strategic plan is to provide student learning opportunities through community partnerships, and the joint effort with Schneider Electric is a mutually beneficial relationship. “Our students are gaining real-world experience, partnering with business mentors, and creating professional products,” said Amy Ridling, secondary math and science content leader. “It’s important that we partner with our community businesses, specifically companies that are willing to support the program so our students can see the future. Schneider Electric is getting an opportunity to meet their future workforce and the people they can rely on as quality employees for years to come.”  

As a strong advocate of STEM initiatives, Schneider Electric is looking to the next generation of STEM professionals to ensure it stays ahead of the game. “Our world is rapidly changing.  As digital transformation continues to shift how we connect with each other, conduct business and experience the world, we must focus on engaging students’ interest in STEM fields,” said Tina Mylon, SVP Talent and Diversity, Schneider Electric. "We are pleased to support the Francis Howell School District and Project Lead The Way vision of creating best-in-class learning environments that develop the next generation of science, technology, engineering and math leaders.”

 The student projects covered an amazing variety of topics, everything from “Tendonitis in High School Athletes” to the “Poultry Propeller,” a better way to cook a turkey. If the world does indeed beat a path to your door if you build a better mousetrap, then these PLTW students should be expecting plenty of visitors!

FHC seniors Christopher Steinbach, Caleb Babb, and Nathanael Crowder presented their invention, “The Zapper.” Steinbach explained, “The zapper is a new and reinvented zipper. The name was originally a typo, an inside joke, but it stuck.” The team did their research, looking at zipper design through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. “The basic design hasn’t really changed in over a century,” said Babb. “The issue with the traditional zipper is that over time it wears out, breaks, and material gets stuck in it. So we looked at a zipper that used different letter shapes to lock together.”

Reilly Harris and Breanna Jefferies are seniors at FHN, and certainly not the type of students that would ever get into trouble, but they still wanted to investigate “The Effects of Detention on Behavior.” After a careful examination of the available discipline data, the researchers were surprised by their findings. “Our hypothesis was that detentions are not effective,” explained Harris. “We found our p-value to be .001 and our alpha was .05, and so since our p-value is lower than our alpha, then there is significant evidence that standard detention is an effective method of deterring negative behavior,” she admitted somewhat begrudgingly.

While many of these students won’t be granted a patent or see their prototypes become reality, that’s not the case for FHN seniors Emily Fetsch and Breanna Jefferies. They have developed a concept for a middle school Biomedical Science Camp that the District will implement this summer. “The goal of our camp is to inspire students to take the PLTW Biomed classes in high school, we really want to give the students the 21st-century skills they will need to succeed,” explained Fetsch, sounding very much like a science teacher. “We’ve worked with the District’s Academic Department on this and learned how to create a formal curriculum. We want to introduce the students to the world of biomedical sciences, and teach them how to work with their peers to solve problems.”

For many of the PLTW students, these classes have helped them to determine their career path after high school. Vincent Andrew Kirov, a senior at FHHS, said that he didn’t know what he wanted to do before his first PLTW class – but he does now. “I’ve taken five PLTW classes during high school, they’re structured differently, there’s lots of hands-on work. These classes cemented the idea that I wanted to go into the medical field. I’m going to SLU as a pre-med student, and going to specialize in neuroscience.” 

A special Francis Howell thank you to Schneider Electric for hosting the event this year. Schneider Electric is leading the digital transformation of energy management and automation in homes, buildings, data centers, infrastructure, and industries. With a global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in power management – medium voltage, low voltage and secure power, and in automation systems. Schneider provides integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation, and software.

An additional note of thanks to Heartland Coca-Cola and Compass USA for donating beverages and snacks for the students, judges, and volunteers at this year’s even

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