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School: Ithaca High School
Project Title: Product Development Lifecycle Experience
Class(s): Engineering Design and Development
Subject(s): Engineering, including Science and Technology, Digital Media Arts and English Language Arts
Project: Students in the Project Lead the Way program take this capstone course in their fourth year. They work in teams of two to three to design and construct a solution to an engineering problem (original, taken from a database of problems, or a national challenge) and apply design cycle principles developed from preceding courses. The bulk of the course models closely a real world product development cycle...students begin by identifying a problem that is relevant to their concerns, and proceed as if there were a potential client. Examples of projects from 2015-16 include a stand-up vehicle for people with limited mobility; a small hydro-powered device for charging electronic devices in the wilderness; and a mobile app packaging multiple popular games together. Students spend several weeks developing their concept, conducting market analysis, refining a business plan, and preparing a funding pitch.
In mid December, students participate in “Pitch Night,” where their well developed proposal is presented as a funding pitch before a distinguished panel of local experts in the academic and business entrepreneurship community. Teams compete for funding toward further product development. Students continue their product development through the year, using engineering software, creating and refining a model of their product, and produce an in-depth portfolio and design proposal that communicates the entire journey. Final presentations of their work are presented to an outside review panel. This work prepares them for life after high school, whether they are entering the workforce or attending college. The students gain valuable experience working in groups, effectively utilizing mentors, collecting and processing data, portfolio development, presentation skills and time management skills.
Experts/Local connections: Members of Ithaca business and entrepreneurship community serve as mentors and consultants to students throughout the year. The students gain from the wisdom of their mentors, which springboards them well beyond other high school students who have not had the opportunity to work with local experts. Sometimes the connections lead to summer internships while the students are in high school or after.
Fieldwork: The students are not required to do field work outside of the classroom, but in order to complete all the necessary work required of the class, the student must complete a large portion of the work on their own time. This simulates field work with less rigidity.