PWHS partners with Virginia Tech to pilot new engineering class
Two men building structure out of licorice


In June, Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) Science Teacher Jim Muscarella attended the American Society of Engineering Education conference in Tampa to present on the PWHS engineering curriculum that's been more than a dozen years in the making. However, Mr. Muscarella had a higher goal in mind and left Florida as a key member of an exclusive pilot program working to establish national standardized high school courses in engineering through an initiative called E4USA (Engineering For Us All). 

"It was consistent with the goals that we wanted to accomplish here: bring engineering literacy to kids but also prepare them for collegiate experiences later," said Mr. Muscarella. "I took a shot and hit gold. All the professors from the different universities have been top notch." 

With a new course in place that Mr. Muscarella was going to flesh out over the summer already, Pre-AP Engineering evolved as the class that would incorporate the initial curriculum and learning outcomes established through the E4USA program. Where historically the engineering classes at PWHS focused primarily on the engineering design process, the E4USA curriculum also highlights engineering career exploration.

"Today's lesson was to pick a non-engineering job that you're curious about and relate it to engineering. One of the students is also a dancer, so we talked about the technology in dance floors, looked a patent of a ballet shoe and talked about its design," said Mr. Muscarella. "This does a couple things. It can pull someone to a certain kind of engineering based on another interest, but it also gives all students the big picture of engineering whether they major in it or not." 

Man working on the inside of a motor


Through the E4USA program, Plymouth Whitemarsh High School has been teamed with Virginia Tech, who provides some resources and funding for the class — as well as three general education college credits for each PWHS student who completes the course. Other partners in the program include Arizona State University, Morgan State University, the University of Maryland, Vanderbilt University, NASA Goddard, Project Lead the Way, and the College Board. The initiative is also funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

Mr. Muscarella traveled to the University of Maryland for a week-long training this summer and is one of eight high school teachers applying the E4USA pilot curriculum in a classroom setting for the 2019-2020 school year. The program hopes to expand to 70 high schools across the U.S. next year.