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Central Nine drops engineering course, adds others

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Fewer local high school students can take courses that would prepare them for a career in engineering after a local center dropped a once-popular program.

Central Nine Career Center added a pre-engineering program several years ago to give students taking advanced science and math courses the chance to learn problem-solving applications and participate in hands-on projects similar to what they would see in a college-level engineering program.

The program was offered by Project Lead the Way, which tries to prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math and which has courses at 5,000 schools across the country.

Since then, Center Grove, Clark-Pleasant and Greenwood all have launched or plan to start their own pre-engineering courses through Project Lead the Way.

Central Nine decided to drop the program after seeing those schools start their own programs. That means if Franklin and Indian Creek High Schools want their students to have the option to take pre-engineering courses, they’ll have to provide them on their own.

But finding a teacher who’s trained to teach the course can be a challenge.

Franklin Community High School Principal Doug Harter tried to create a pre-engineering course for his students this year. He and the high school’s guidance counselors found that between 15 and 20 students wanted to study pre-engineering, but then he had to find a teacher for the program.

He couldn’t find an instructor who could complete two weeks of mandatory engineering training before the start of the school year.

“We had enough interest. I just couldn’t find the person to teach the course,” Harter said. “There’s just not a lot of people in that field who are licensed teachers. That’s the issue.”

In the fall of 2010, the pre-engineering program at Central Nine was so popular that 40 students — nearly two classrooms’ worth — were enrolled. But those numbers dropped as area school districts created their own courses, curriculum director Nicole Otte said.

An advantage to high schools offering the pre-engineering program themselves is that it gives more students a chance to take the course, Harter said.

Students who take a lot of Advanced Placement courses aren’t always interested in taking courses at the career center because they can take more college-level courses if they stay at their high school, Harter said.

He said he hopes that if Franklin can start a pre-engineering program, there will be enough seats for both Advanced Placement students and for students who would have taken the course at Central Nine.

Central Nine has replaced the pre-engineering program with an advanced manufacturing course that includes lessons in electronics and how gears operate to make machines work.

Otte is hopeful the career center can start working more closely with area high schools and middle schools so students can start learning earlier what kind of training they can receive at Central Nine and how that training could benefit them in different careers.

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