Project Lead the Way

Posted: March 30, 2014
Last modified: January 19, 2017

The Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) I-4 Ultimate project is teaming up with engineering magnet program high schools Edgewater and Lyman to give engineering students a firsthand look at how scientific principles apply to road construction.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our kids,” said Lanny Wood, The Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Program Director at Edgewater High School. PLTW is a national education program delivering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs to more than 5,000 schools nationwide. An architect, Wood traded in his drafting table and slide rule for textbooks and lesson plans.

“Our curriculum mirrors the engineering concepts that students wouldn’t otherwise begin to explore until their first or second year in college,” remarked Wood. “Being able to partner with the I-4 project gives our students a leg up as they further their educational careers.”

Beginning fall 2014, I-4 Ultimate project leaders will step into the classroom engaging and connecting with students, providing them the opportunity to follow this historic project throughout their time in high school.

“We really wanted to open their eyes to what this type of engineering is all about,” said FDOT I-4 Ultimate Construction Program Manager Loreen Bobo. “We all use and see the benefits of civil engineering projects every day.” Bobo, a second-generation engineer, credits exposure to her father’s career at a young age with leading her to follow his footsteps into engineering. “If he hadn’t been that influence, who knows where I would’ve ended up,” she quipped.

The I-4 Ultimate in-school civil engineering outreach program will expand to include other area schools over the next six years. FDOT first began reaching out to teenagers through the Construction Career Days (www.ccdfl.com) program in 1999. More than 1,700 high school students from 40 area schools attended this year’s Central Florida event in late January. Students got up close and personal with various learning labs, occupational demonstrations and even a heavy equipment area where they could test drive equipment used to build our highways.

“Construction Career Days is a great program that reaches a lot of students in a short amount of time. We want the in-school civil engineering program to dig deeper, get more specific and really help students understand why we build projects the way we do,” Bobo added.

The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates a 17 percent growth in STEM jobs by 2018. Partnering programs like PLTW, with hands-on opportunities like I-4 Ultimate, encourage students to gravitate toward the kinds of high-tech careers projected to increase in demand over the coming years.

“Project-based learning produces critical thinkers and problem solvers,” added Wood. “That is a skill that is going to take them, and ultimately our country, to unmeasurable success.”

The I-4 Ultimate project aims to build not only a better interstate in Central Florida today, but also a pipeline into the leaders and designers of tomorrow.