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B'ville students take off with aerospace engineering course

To prepare students to compete nationally and globally with their peers, the Baldwinsville Central School District offers its students a wide range of programs and services, including the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering program. Baker High School is one of only 251 high schools in New York State offering the PLTW engineering program. PLTW is a national organization and the nation's leading provider of rigorous and innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

The National Science Foundation has identified STEM-related industries as producing almost 50 percent of the U.S. economic growth in the last 50 years. As baby boomers retire, the workforce will need individuals with STEM-related skills and experience to replace them. The Baldwinsville Central School District offers the PLTW engineering program to provide its students with the skills they will need to pursue post-secondary education and training in STEM-related industries.

This year, the district began offering an aerospace engineering class at the high school as part of the PLTW program. The aerospace engineering course was made possible with a grant secured for the district by Assemblyman William Magnarelli. The district has used grant money to purchase necessary equipment, such as a wind tunnel.

The course, taught by teacher Christopher Ludden, engages students in engineering design problems. They work on hands-on activities and projects that expose them to situations encountered by aerospace engineers. Students recently tested composite materials with the school's Structural Stress Analyzer 1000 machine. The machine applied pressure to beams that the students had made from fiberglass fabric, epoxy and foam. They were testing their beams to see at what weight they would begin to bend.

"Composite materials are used extensively in aerospace engineering," Ludden explained. Ludden, who has a degree in aerospace engineering, said the material his students tested is similar to the material used to make airplane wings, and the stress analyzer is a machine similar to one engineers use for testing purposes. The project provided Ludden's students with real, hands-on experience in engineering applications.

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