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SDSU leads the way to new opportunities

Arturo Garcia Sierra

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A notable shortage of U.S. engineers and biomedical scientists and an aging workforce in such fields has led many corporations to fund a project to encourage preteens and teens from middle and high schools to become America’s future engineering and biomed college students. San Diego State is hosting Project Lead the Way Summer Training Program for Teachers which began on July 3 and will continue through Friday. The program trains middle and high school teachers.

It was started by a businessman who owned several engineering companies and was having a hard time hiring engineers. According to Bruce Westermo, SDSU’s PLTW director and engineering professor, the U.S. is falling behind many leading industrial countries mainly because of the shortage of U.S.-born engineers. As some companies require workers to be U.S. citizens, progress remains halted.

According to Westermo, NASA paid for two of the engineering programs PLTW offers. Most of the program’s funding is from private industry. Chevron is spending more than one million dollars per year in California, and Qualcomm has funded programs in the past.

“(The companies funding the program) are the people that want to hire the kids that get out of this,” Westermo said. “They want to fund California because they have a tough time bringing people from out of state because of the pricey living.”

Forty schools in San Diego County are part of the program. Among them are Patrick Henry, Castle Park, Eastlake, Coronado, and Morris, Madison and Scripps Ranch from the San Diego Unified District, which Westermo said has a strong engineering program.

SDSU is in charge of the program in California.

As the courses satisfy high school curriculum, students have benefited. According to Westermo, instead of taking drama, a high school student could take a 3-D solid modeling design software class to satisfy the same requirement.

“We don’t want to convert every student into an engineer or scientist,” Westermo said. “But we do want to show them the

opportunity.”

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